Exemption on foreign vessels berthing aimed at speeding up repairs to submarine cables

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KUALA LUMPUR (April 11): The decision to exempt foreign vessels from berthing in the country’s waters is to speed up repair works on damaged submarine cables, said Transport Minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook.

He said that according to a report by the International Cable Protection Committee, Malaysia currently took a long time of up to 27 days to repair submarine cables.

“Damaged submarine cables is a phenomenon caused by various unexpected factors, causing telecommunication disruptions in Malaysia which, in turn, can result in losses among normal users and businesses using communication infrastructure.

“The process of repairing the submarine cables need immediate attention to prevent continued losses and telecommunication disturbances,” he said during the Ministerial queries in Dewan Rakyat today.

He said this when replying to a question by Ahmad Fahmi Mohamed Fadzil (PH-Lembah Pantai), who wanted to know the Government’s consideration in the exemption of foreign vessels since April and whether it would affect the growth of the local shipping industry.

According to Loke, Malaysia’s performance in repairing submarine cables was among the lowest in the world, thus negatively impacting the country’s ability to be competitive in attracting local and foreign investments for the telecommunication and Internet sectors.

Other that that, he said the country currently had only one ship registered to carry out submarine cable repairs, causing telecommunication companies to seek the services of foreign vessels.

“For your information, work to repair submarine cables needs the services of a special vessel, namely dynamic position two (DP2)-type cable laying ship, of which very few are available in Malaysia.

“Thus, the Government’s main consideration is to increase the country’s competitive level in attracting foreign investors like Facebook, Google and Amazon to build submarine cables and data centres in Malaysia,” he said.

In a bid to protect the local shipping industry, Loke said the Government implemented a policy of cabotage, whereby only Malaysian vessels could carry out merchant shipping activities in the country’s waters as provided for under Section 65 (KA) of the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952.

Loke said that as for foreign vessels, the Ministry would ensure exceptions only for those berthing in Malaysia for the purpose of cable repairs and would be recorded to see the need for such services.

Malaysia has 16 international and nine local submarine cable networks nationwide.

Meanwhile, at a press conference at the Parliament lobby, Loke said he expected the exemption of foreign vessels to shorten the time taken to repair the country’s submarine cables to just 14 days.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo said the move to exempt foreign vessels was to convince more foreign investors, especially in the telecommunications sector, to make Malaysia a destination for setting up telecommunications data centres.

“With this gazette, it will again make Malaysia a front runner in being considered for investment in terms of laying down submarine cables,” he said at the joint press conference with Loke.