PBK Thong: More free ports vital to encourage economic activities and create job opportunities

Raymond Thong

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KUCHING, April 19: Parti Bumi Kenyalang (PBK) director of political affairs Raymond Thong opined Sarawak should have more free ports to encourage economic activities and create job opportunities for the locals.

Thong, in a press statement today, said the Sarawak government should start planning on these free ports early because it takes time to attract the right industries to set up their operations in the State.

“This is also in anticipation of the government’s plan to open up more land for development for agriculture, plantations, mining and other purposes through the construction of the Second Trunk Road (STR). These ports should have the capacity to cater for the increasing volume of exports.

“Free ports must enhance the regions’ prospects for investment and growth and a successful free port will increase the growth of the State’s economy and create jobs for the local people,” he said.

He noted, in order to attract investors to set up industries in a free port, the government must provide tax incentives, good living quarters, sufficient energy and water supply and link it to a good network of roads and railways.

He said for the Senari Port, the government should attract new industries like silica and sand, ship repairs and furniture manufacturing; the Tanjong Manis Port can focus on fishery and marine industries, food and agriculture, furniture manufacturing, ship building and repairs while Miri Port can focus on oil and gas related industries, chemicals and fertilizers industries.

“The government should also ensure that these free ports will be able to meet the continuing needs of land-short Singapore and the new Indonesian capital in East Kalimantan. Our free ports should form part of the supply chain for the industries in these two countries,” he added.

Meanwhile, Thong said ports play a very important role to the development of maritime economy as well as the national economy and they serve as the crucial connection between sea and land transport for the country’s imports and exports.

Emphasising on ports as part of the critical supply chain, Thong said every effort should be made to ensure it is running smoothly, and the recent Senari Port computer system breakdown served as a reminder to the government on the need to relook at the way they manage the major ports throughout Sarawak.

According to him, upgrading the port’s handling equipment and machinery and software is crucial to the operations and efficient running of the port.

“The government should work to increase the efficiency and capacity of the ports in the State and port development needs to progress in tandem with the growth of the nation’s imports and exports as the economy expands.

“There are seven major free ports in Malaysia, with Bintulu Port as the only one in Sarawak. Considering the size of Sarawak, the government should work towards having three more free ports beside the Bintulu Port, namely Senari Port, Tanjong Manis Port and Miri Port,” he said. — DayakDaily