Scrapping Cabotage Not Workable As Laws Still Exist, Hints Sabah Activist

KOTA KINABALU: The cabotage policy must be abolished consistent with Annex A of the Inter-governmental Committee (IGC) report or else it would not be workable, according to a Sabah rights activist.

Zainnal Ajamain said the announcement made by Najib Razak in Sandakan on Sunday would not mean anything, until and unless the necessary regulations and laws are repealed.


“The Federal government cannot discriminate Sabah and Sarawak by just changing the trade routes,” he said in a statement.

“There is no such thing as exemption. This is because the cabotage policy is only for Sabah and Sarawak. In Malaya, you have alternative means of transporting goods such as highways and railways.

The prime minister had on his recent working visit to Sandakan said that the federal government has decided to exempt Sabah, Sarawak and the Federal Territory of Labuan from the cabotage policy with effect from June 1.

Zainnal who authored the book “Queen’s Obligation” pointed out that the way a statement (made) by the Minister of Transport (Liow Tiong Lai) was worded show that the cabotage policy is still there and is not abolished.

“What this means is that, any ship (foreign and domestic) can carry goods from Port Klang to Kota Kinabalu. But it did not say ships from China and Hong Kong can offload and load goods in Kota Kinabalu before proceeding to Klang,” he explained.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Liow maintained that the cabotage Policy is not the reason behind rising costs of many consumer goods in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan, compared to peninsular Malaysia.

He nevertheless noted that, as a caring and responsible government, the cabinet had recently reached this decision in line with the government’s effort to improve the liveability of Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan people.

The exemption of the policy will cover the following aspects:

(I) from any port in Peninsular Malaysia to any port of Sabah, Sarawak and the Federal Territory of Labuan and vice versa for cargo transport services;

(II) between ports in Sabah;

(III) between ports in Sarawak; and

(IV) the exemption does not affect services other than freight transport services;

In the past, Liow had been reported saying that the cabotage policy cannot be repealed as it is the country’s sovereign right to have it under the Malaysian Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952.

He had also said that the policy could not be revoked, as under Section 65KA (1) of the ordinance, it is stipulated that ‘no ship other than a Malaysian ship may engage in domestic shipping’.