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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Ban on tugboats soon

KOTA KINABALU - Tug boats will no longer be allowed for transhipment activities effective May 19 as a further measure to deter future attempts by suspected Abu Sayyaf militants to kidnap Malaysians for ransom in waters between Sabah and southern Philippines, which Indonesia fears may become the new Somalia.
This is in addition to the proposed ban on the use of pumpboats in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone) to come into effect on January 7, next year.

The waters off Sabah have seen three kidnappings in three weeks by assailants using speedboats since April 1.

Altogether 18 people comprising four Malaysians and 14 Indonesians have been taken hostage.

All were spirited away after the gunmen storming the vessels comprising mainly tugboats.

The Sabah United Chinese Chambers of Commerce (SUCCC) said it supported the Government decision, as a necessary sacrifice for the sake of the state's security.

Following the April 1, kidnap, the State Government also imposed a temporary ban on barter trade with both Philippines and Indonesia a week later.

However, the State Security Council (SSC), chaired by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, has given the greenlight to traders who had applied for goods transhipment in the harbour to ship out their perishable goods to their next destination.

The approval effective April 21 to May 18 is for traders who had their application approved before the barter trade suspension order was issued on April 6. The authority would not entertain new applications after the suspension order.

SUCCC President Datuk Seri Gan Sau Wah advised Chamber members and traders involved to immediately re-apply their transhipment application so as not to incur further losses due to perishable items kept in the harbor warehouse for a long period.

"We are thankful to Musa for his consideration towards the affected traders by allowing the issuance of Letter of Exemption Approval for them to ship out their cargoes to the next destination. This will surely reduce greatly the burden of the traders concerned," he said in a statement, Saturday.

He said the move had also shown the wise leadership and ability of Musa in resolving problems in a speedy manner.

According to him, as of Saturday, quite a number of traders had received their Letter of Exemption Approval and that transhipment of their goods is moving smoothly.

The SUCCC appealed to the State Government last Wednesday for special arrangement to address the issue of shipping out trade inventories kept at port warehouse following the suspension order.

Notice issued by the Sabah Port authority on Friday that all transhipment cargo warehoused at Tawau port are allowed to be shipped out by 10 companies dealing with Tawau port effective during the duration.

Transhipment cargo ships stranded at the said port, too, are allowed to bring their cargo, if any, into the Tawau port warehouse on condition that the cargo must be shipped out to their next destination before May 18, and advised the owner or agents of the any inventory kept in the warehouse to forward their inquiries to the SSC for the attention of the Chief Minister.

"We don't want to see this become a new Somalia," Indonesia's Chief Security Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said, referring to the sea border between Sabah and Philippines where the rash of kidnappings took place.

Piracy off Somalia's coast has subsided in the last few years mainly due to shipping firms hiring private security details and the presence of international warships to guard the route. - DE

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