No cabotage policy for foreign ships repairing undersea cables, says Loke

Transport Minister Loke Siew Fook.

KUALA LUMPUR: Transport Minister Loke Siew Fook says foreign vessels conducting undersea cable repairs in the country have been spared the cabotage policy in order to boost local and foreign investment in the telecommunications and internet sector.

He told the Dewan Rakyat today that the decision to grant exceptions to foreign vessels, which came into effect on April 1, was made on March 28 under Section 65(U) of the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952.

While there is a cabotage policy in place to protect local vessels, he said, exceptions have to be made as there is only one cable-laying ship in the country capable of repairing undersea cables.

The Seremban MP added that while it takes only 12 days for the likes of Vietnam and South Korea to conduct such repairs, it takes a much longer time in Malaysia.

“Many companies avoid placing undersea cables in Malaysia because we take a long time to repair them. Twenty-seven days. So they land in Singapore,” he said during the ministerial question time.

However, he said only ships fixing cables in Malaysia are allowed exemption, adding that these vessels will be recorded for reference by those interested in investing in undersea cable repair services in the country.

He was replying to Fahmi Fadzil (PH-Lembah Pantai) who asked about foreign vessels involved in undersea cable repairs in Malaysia.

He told the lower house that Malaysia has 16 international undersea cable networks and nine local cable networks at cable-landing stations across the country.

Loke said in November last year, he was contacted by Telekom Malaysia and Time Dot Com – companies which have investments in the international undersea cable repair consortium.

“They pleaded for the application to bring in foreign vessels to fix damaged undersea cables to be eased and expedited.

“Subsequently, in February, I met with the communications and multimedia minister to discuss the matter, and the application was much supported by the ministry,” he said.