Masing and Chong exchange shots over Miri Port

Masing delivering his winding-up speech in DUN today (Nov 13, 2019) seen in this photo of the in-house DUN broadcast.

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By Lian Cheng and Karen Bong

KUCHING, Nov 13: Infrastructure and Port Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing and Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen exchanged a barrage of words in the DUN sitting today over the issue of heavy siltation at Miri Port.

Masing said the Sarawak government will pursue the issue of alleviating heavy siltation at the port with the federal government under the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP).

He said the port has failed to realise its full potential due to severe siltation.

“As the feeder port which links trade for Sarawak’s northern region, Miri Port has not been able to realise its full potential, operating at only 30 per cent of its design capacity.

“Severe siltation at the Kuala Baram river mouth has been the main obstacle. It is understood that the channel depth is now only less than 3-metres during high tide and only about one metre during low tide.

“This will be one of our agenda (sic) to pursue with the federal government under the 12 Malaysia Plan to alleviate this condition,” said Masing in his winding-up speech at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting here today.

The Baleh assemblyman said as a temporary measure, the Miri Port Authority (MPA), with the support of his ministry, is planning to dredge certain areas identified along the access channel to an acceptable depth.

“However, it would still require a capital dredging for bigger vessels to be able to call at Miri Port,” he told the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting here.

Disagreed with Masing, Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen interrupted and questioned Masing over the proposal of both the state and previous federal governments, to construct an alternative canal which may resolve the problem of siltation at the existing canal.

To Chong’s query, Masing said there were two proposals that were put forth in the last few years.

“Please bear in mind that dredging of ports in Sarawak is under the purview of the federal government. It has been long enough but the funding is not available yet. Until today, there is no funding yet.

“The projects are private sector driven and I would suggest that with your help and the Sarawak government’s help to ask for funding from the federal government to fulfil the obligation to help us do the port. That has yet to come about. So please help us,” said Masing.

Meanwhile, Masing said the Sarawak government has approved a study amounting to RM8 million for investigations, surveys, hydraulic studies and preparation of a masterplan for a deep sea port at Tanjung Po, Kuching.

He said the Kuching Port (Senari and Pending Terminal) was operating at about 75 per cent of its design capacity of 9.9 million tonnes in 2018.

“Both terminals are situated within Sungai Sarawak. Therefore, it would be a wise strategy for the government to develop a deep sea port for the southern region of Sarawak to boost its economy,” said Masing.

He said a deep sea port for Kuching is needed to ensure easy accessibility and fast turn-around time of ships, which will reduce import costs, attract manufacturing and drive exports, thus placing Kuching Port on the world map as the port of the future. — DayakDaily