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PUTRAJAYA, Dec 2 -- Malaysian companies have the capabilities to conduct subsea cable repairs, insists the Malaysia Shipowners' Association (MASA).
MASA is happy with the government’s recent decision to revoke the cabotage exemption allowing foreign-flagged ships to repair undersea cables in Malaysian waters.
Its chairman Datuk Abdul Hak Md Amin said Malaysian companies owned a total of four qualified and certified cable ships, currently used by the industry for installation and maintenance of undersea cables.
He said the companies have over 40 years’ experience in cable repair and cable link but unfortunately sought opportunities in other countries like Indonesia and registered their vessels there as they could not secure such business in Malaysia.
"They are going to register one of their vessels back in Malaysia if they have business here," he told a press conference here today.
The cabotage exemption for foreign vessels was granted in April 2019 by former Transport Minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook following requests from telecommunication companies.
The exemption, which was revoked on Nov 15, previously allowed foreign companies and vessels to carry out repair works on submarine cables without the need to apply for a domestic shipping licensing exemption.
When the exemption was in force, all underwater cable repairs in Malaysian waters were undertaken by a Singapore-registered company, and this had a counter-productive effect in stimulating competition, said Abdul Hak.
He said the repair operations took between 29 and 48 days, much longer than the prevalent belief that the exemption was needed to bring down repair time to fewer than 27 days.
Abdul Hak stressed that the revocation would not create a monopoly for Malaysian companies, as foreign companies would still be allowed to work in the country.
“If the telcos apply (for repair works), we’ll see, after two days, if there is no Malaysian ship, we will inform the Ministry of Transport and we can bring in foreign ships. That only takes two to three days," he said.
He further assured that the revocation would not affect internet speeds and services.
During the cabotage exemption period when the Singapore company took up to 48 days to conduct the repairs, no major disruptions to Malaysian internet services were recorded, he said.
On concerns that cable repair costs might escalate, Abdul Hak said the cabotage policy has no impact on the price of repairs as it was governed by maintenance zones.
"What drives the pricing is the competition between the zones, and we believe the current revocation will help stimulate this competition," he said.
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