KUCHING, March 12: Malaysia Airports Berhad (MAB) under the Kuching International Airport (KIA) Modernisation Project is planning to build a new cargo complex on a 43-acre piece of land adjacent to the Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) building near KIA as the present Air Cargo facility was too old and poorly equipped to meet the growing needs of cargo or freight operations in Sarawak.
Assistant Minister of Transportation Datuk Dr Jerip Susil pointed out that the present cargo facility was outdated and far less than safisfactory as it was already 35-years-old.
Space constraints as well as lack of equipment and infrastructure, he noted, were among the major issues faced by the air cargo facility including the industry stakeholders, from Customs Department, airliners to forwarding agencies.
“It is hampering the growth of the import and export sector in Sarawak. We need a better facility especially in view of the long term plan of the state government in the export of agriculture products,” he said.
He added that that Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg had even announced that an airport would be built in Spaoh as the area has potential for modern agriculture.
“But we are delighted that MAB has responded positively in which a cargo complex that will be fully equipped like the Cargo Village in Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and Kota Kinabalu is in the pipeline,” he revealed.
He highlighted this after a visit to the old Air Cargo facility and a meeting with the Sarawak Forwarding Agencies Association (SFAA), the Customs Department, MAB as well as airliners namely MABkargo, Pos Aviation Cargo and Raya Airways today.
According to MAB senior airport manager Jun Iskandar Murshidi, the project is still in the planning stage in which the tender has been opened to engage a consultant to undertake an overall study including feasibility, on terminals and the surrounding area to come out with a masterplan.
“We have presented the proposal to the MOT (Ministry of Transport) in August last year. We expect the consultant to start in July this year. All stakeholders will be called to give input in due time,” he explained.
While the cost of the construction has yet to be determined, Dr Jerip has urged for close coordination between various parties so that no stakeholder will be left behind and their interests taken into account in the planning for the proposed Cargo Complex.
“It is also best that the consultant take into account the input of stakeholders in its preliminary planning,” he advised.
The cargo complex, he added, should be fully equipped with all kinds of facilities including warehouse, storage facility for perishable goods, loading and unloading bay, carpark and others.
A better cargo facility, he emphasised, was needed to meet demand and offer better services, given the substantial growth in cargo activities and airline operations in Kuching and Sarawak.
“Cargo capacity and airliners make important contribution to not just the economy of the state but also income of the airport. We recognised the fact that cargo capacity of KIA is increasing,” he said.
In Kuching, there are three key cargo players occupying about 50,000 sq ft of areas at the Air Cargo facility in KIA.
Pos Aviation Cargo takes up some 14,000 sq ft, while MABkargo about 12,500 sq ft and Raya Airways about 23,500 sq ft.
Jun Iskandar highlighted that there is potential growth for the logistic sector as cargo volume has increased about nine per cent overall in the past three years with 22,500 metric tonnes (MT) in 2016, 24,620 MT (2017) and 26,816 MT (2018).
Meanwhile, Customs Department deputy director Herman Shah Abdullah revealed that they were planning to expand the workforce at the cargo unit to meet the ongoing strength of logistic activities.
He also stressed that a scanner machine to facilitate checking of cargo was needed but has yet to materialise due to space constraints in the present facility.
SFAA observed that a bigger and better cargo and airport facility was important to encourage the growth of the logistics sector in Sarawak, particularly the export sector in order to make Kuching an export hub.
They also urged the state government to look into providing space or facilities to conduct training for freighters as the industry moved forward.
Freighters, the association added, needed to be upgrade their knowledge and skills from time to time to be more professional in their approaches.
The association currently has 160 registered members but overall, there are over 400 shipping and forwarding licensed companies in Sarawak.
MAB Kargo Sdn Bhd cargo sales manager for Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei Muhamad Khairul Mohd Noor and SFAA vice-president David Chieng were among those present. — DayakDaily