All ships must have open access to Labuan, says FT minister

FT Minister Khalid Abdul Samad says Labuan should receive direct shipments from foreign countries bringing goods here, in line with its free port status.

LABUAN: Labuan’s free port status must remain total, with direct access to foreign vessels from various countries, says Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad.

He said there should be no limitations on any foreign vessels calling at the Labuan port (Labuan Liberty Wharf) as this would impede economic activities on the duty-free-island.

“Should there be any restrictions or limitations (related to the cabotage issue) of foreign vessels calling at Labuan port?

“That will be among the issues to be discussed with the transport minister,” he told reporters while on a fact-finding mission to Labuan last weekend.

Khalid said the port should provide more open access to vessels from Europe, China and Japan, among others, without them having to go through Port Klang.

“Labuan should receive direct shipments from foreign countries bringing goods here, in line with its free port status,” he said.

The cabotage policy in Sabah, in force since 1980 under the transport ministry, aims to integrate all Malaysian maritime activities, but businesses and communities here have said it is the reason goods in Sabah are higher compared to the peninsula.

Labuan Liberty Port Management Sdn Bhd CEO Mohd Alias Abd Rahman told Bernama the port’s cargo handling has declined by more than 30% due to the sluggish oil and gas sector, although transshipment activities are helping the port to make ends meet.