Wee defends cabotage exemption policy for foreign ships to do undersea cable repairs

Vital to protect digital sovereignty, national security when allowing alien vessels to enter country’s waters, says transport minister

: Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong (Ayer Hitam-BN) has defended the current cabotage exemption policy for foreign vessels to conduct undersea cable repairs as it is important to safeguard digital sovereignty and national security.

During his winding-up speech in Dewan Rakyat today, the MCA lawmaker stressed that the current policy in place is not to drive investors away as Malaysia’s neighbouring country Indonesia, has more stringent rules when it comes to allowing vessels to enter its borders.

“The online application for a domestic shipping licence (eDSL) takes only three days to be approved.

“What happened before this (during the Pakatan Harapan administration), DSL was only applied after the ships had entered.

“To safeguard the sovereignty of our country, we have developed eDSL and it takes only three days to approve 10 applications.

Wee defends cabotage exemption policy for foreign ships to do undersea cable repairs
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong stressed that the current cabotage exemption policy is not to drive investors away as Malaysia’s neighbouring country Indonesia has more stringent rules. – The Vibes file pic

“In Malaysia, we are not saying that foreign ships cannot enter our shores. It’s just that if I have guests paying me a visit at my house, they have to greet me first,” he said. 

The MCA lawmaker’s response came after former transport minister Anthony Loke (Seremban-PH) had said that tech giants such as Facebook and Google have appealed to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to reinstate the cabotage exemption policy that governs undersea internet cable repairs. 

Previously, The Vibes reported that there were four companies – Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Facebook – and the Malaysia Internet Exchange told Ismail Sabri that all it takes are simple changes to the country’s infrastructure to reap greater economic benefits. 

By reinstating the exemption, they said, it would “send a strong message about the government’s commitment to realise the MyDigital agenda. 

MyDigital is the national digital economy policy. Among its goals is attracting more international submarine cable landings to Malaysia to expand global connectivity, aiming to have the highest number of such cables in Southeast Asia by 2025.

The reversal of the cabotage exemption policy by the Perikatan Nasional government on November 13 last year was among the negative points for tech stakeholders.

Wee, had undid the policy put in place by Loke, that players said sped up undersea cable repairs.

Wee’s decision drew flak, and he was blamed for the country’s missed opportunities in terms of attracting cable landings by the likes of Facebook because it favoured a single company – the Optic Marine Services group – and the Malaysia Shipowners’ Association.

Elaborating on this matter, Wee today said his ministry will be holding detailed discussions in the cabinet with various ministries so that this policy does not disrupt foreign investment. 

“I am confident that we will be able to balance digital sovereignty, safety and the views of different agencies and ministries as well as stakeholders.

“I think we should reach a decision which does not disrupt foreign investment and protect the country’s sovereignty, like Indonesia and our neighbouring countries.”


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