Premier: Sarawak wants Bintulu Port back

Abdul Mutalib (left) handing over a painting of the Samalaju port to Abang Johari during the memento presentation at the Samalaju Industrial Port Sdn Bhd’s 10th Anniversary event held at a leading hotel in Bintulu tonight (Jan 30, 2023). Screenshot: Ukas livestream

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By Nur Ashikin Louis and Ashley Sim

BINTULU, Jan 30: The Sarawak government wishes to take back Bintulu Port from the federal government so it can be developed in line with the strategies drawn up for all ports in the State, says Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said under the Sarawak Post Covid-19 Development Strategy (PCDS) 2030, the catalytic initiatives and key outcomes for port development include a masterplan study for all ports in Sarawak, a 50 per cent increase in port capacity, efficient port services, a 25 per cent reduction in carbon emission from ports operations, and sustainability practices in ports.

He also mentioned that the Sarawak government wants Bintulu Port to be part of a cluster of State ports under a Central Port Authority, which would be incorporated by State law.

The new Authority will streamline and coordinate the management, operation, planning, and development of all ports located in the State.

“This Authority will be able to ensure harmonisation of port tariffs and dues for all ports in Sarawak.

“Bintulu Port’s tariffs have not been revised or increased since 1993 and are lower than those of State ports, thus diverting traffic from our State ports.

“This is against the recommendation of the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) report that there should be no discriminatory port dues and fees amongst the ports in Sarawak that would have the effect of diverting trade and maritime traffic from any of the ports,” he said when officiating at Samalaju Industrial Port Sdn Bhd’s (SIPSB) 10th Anniversary event held at a leading hotel in Bintulu, broadcast live by Sarawak Public Communications Unit (UKAS) on Facebook earlier tonight.

At the same time, Abang Johari pointed out that upon the formation of Malaysia, there were no federal ports in Bintulu or anywhere in Sarawak.

In 1978, Parliament passed the Declaration of An Area in the Bintulu District as a Federal Port Act (Act 217). This Act was passed without the mandatory request from the State Legislature of Sarawak as required under Article 76(1)(c) of the Federal Constitution. With the enactment of Act 217, Bintulu Port was declared a federal port.

Parliament then passed the Bintulu Port Authority Act 1981 to constitute the Bintulu Port Authority (BPA), whose functions were to build, control, administer and regulate Bintulu Port.

On Jan 1, 1993, BPA granted a concession to Bintulu Port Sdn Bhd (BPSB) — now wholly owned by Bintulu Port Holdings Berhad (BPHB), for the operation of the port in which the Sarawak government has 39.7 per cent shares and Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) and Malaysia International Shipping Corporation (MISC) Berhad together hold 30.8 per cent shares, totalling 70.5 per cent of BPHB’s issued shares which are listed on the Bursa Malaysia.

Nevertheless, Abang Johari said the Sarawak government would like to continue working with Petronas as a major stakeholder of the Port, to manage and operate the Bintulu Port and undertake the development of the port.

Therefore, he called on the shareholders, especially Petronas and the Board of Directors and Management of BPHB, to support the key development initiative for the mutual benefit of all parties involved.

Touching on the 10th anniversary of SIPSB, the Premier expressed gratitude to the company for building, managing and operating the Port primarily to serve the industries at the Samalaju industrial zone.

For 2022, SIPSB has reported operating revenues of RM164.6 million and a cargo throughput of 6.6 million tonnes.

Fully operational since 2017, the Samalaju Port, with the projected steady growth of heavy industries, would be handling over 10 million tonnes of cargo by 2030.

Amongst those present were the Premier’s wife, Puan Sri Datuk Amar Juma’ani Tuanku Bujang; Deputy Premier Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas; Sarawak Speaker Datuk Amar Mohamad Asfia Awang Nassar; Sarawak Secretary Datuk Amar Mohamad Abu Bakar Marzuki; Deputy Minister for Port Development Sarawak Datuk Majang Renggi; BPHB chairman-cum-director Dato Abdul Mutalib Alias; and BPHB chief executive officer Dato Mohammad Medan Abdullah. — DayakDaily