Despite having several private facilities within the Labuan Port Water Limit, Labuan Liberty Wharf is the sole and government-owned port facility for break-bulk and containerised cargo.
The private facilities include those operated by Petronas, Antara Steel, Shell, Asian Supply Base Sdn Bhd, and Labuan Shipyard and Engineering Sdn Bhd.
Labuan Liberty Port Management Sdn Bhd (LLPM-Labuan Liberty Port Operator) Chief Executive Officer, Datuk Seri Mohd Alias Abdul Rahman said the port (before it was officially managed by LLPM) was popularly known as a ‘cowboy port’, with no proper management and port tariff were established, and vulnerable to smuggling activities.
“One could imagine how the port was during that time as there was no port operator was appointed to run officially the cargo terminal with Labuan being a free-duty-island offering duty-free items,” he said Thursday.
He said after being the official port operator in 1998 (not in 2003, as claimed by certain quarters), LLPM has made its stand to run the port ethically and professionally in the interest of the government’s trust and aspiration and for the island’s economy.
Alias said the total cargo handling at the port increased tremendously from only 10,000 total equivalent units (TEUs) in 1998 to more than 30,000 TEUs now, a growth of more than 200 per cent.
“For the record, a number of foreign vessels have called at the Labuan Liberty Port such as vessels from United States of America and Australia, and currently, often vessels from Asian countries of Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand.
“These vessels carry bulk cargo such as for the transhipment – rice, sugar and chemical products meant for neighbouring countries.
“The Labuan Liberty Port has played a significant role in the development of Labuan,” he said.
Alias said with the close cooperation with relevant government agencies such as Royal Malaysian Customs Department, Marine Department, Police and Domestic Trade, Cooperative and Consumerism Ministry (KPDNKK), the port has been able to assist the government in ensuring the smooth flow of export and import trade and reduced the loss of government revenue as a result of smuggling activities.
“We have developed an internal cargo tracking system which is accessible by the customs’ officer and this is a great help for the enforcement agency to monitor the inflow and outflow of cargo via the port,” said Alias, who is also president of the Labuan Chamber of Malay Entrepreneurs (DUML).
He pointed out the port is now fully equipped with necessary equipment and facilities (state-of-the-art technology), to cater for the players’ demand, remain competitive and on par with other ports.
The port has seen a busy period and over the years has handled more than 30,000 total equivalent units (TEUs) of containers.
“We are aware of the importance of information technology in port terminal operation, and therefore, there has been no turning back since then (since 1998) as the port has grown from strength to strength, we have invested more than RM40 million in assets to better equip this port with advanced facilities and machinery.
“To ensure the safety of the cargoes in our warehouses, we have upgraded our security guards to auxiliary police, as recognised by the Royal Malaysian Force,” he added.
Alias said with all the facilities and the development of the internal security system and cargo tracking system, the port is not only known to the domestic industry player but also to the internationally players.
“We are glad to be part of the development team of the Labuan’s economic driven of oil and gas sector.
“Because shipping is a global industry, it is evolving all the time, so there are a lot of geopolitical and economic uncertainties that the industry has to look at.
“There is a greater demand on the yard space …how do we ensure that these are turned around quicker, maintaining our competitiveness, these will be one of the challenges we see with the alliances coming in.
“The other challenge we see will be greater competition, because we have witnessed other ports next to us (Sabah and Sarawak), building their infrastructure, ad certainly, there will be competition, as such, we should response to the competition.
The aerial view of Labuan Liberty Port inland depot at Jalan Rancha-Rancha here, opened to ease the port congestion.
Alias said to cater to future demand for cargo trade, LLPM has expanded its container yard’s role by opening inland depot outside of the port.
“We have provided necessary facilities like warehouse for the O&G players not only within the port but we have initiated the opening of large scale of inland depot with millions of ringgit investment,” Alias said.
He said the opening of depot at Rancha-Rancha industrial area was to ease the congestion at the limited-area port terminal.
On the Labuan Chinese Chamber of Commerce’s claim that the port charges are high and has undermined the Labuan attraction, he replied the port charges (storage tariff) had not been reviewed since the last 18 years.
“It could be the new charges for the new introduced-services they claimed are higher, but the port has not received official complaints on the new charges but the services are merely to ease port congestion.
“As we impose new charges for the new service such as cargo handling from yard inside the port to the outside yard, we have actually given the port users option of which is to prolong the operation hour (cargo handling) or moving their containers to the yard outside, with different charges,” he said.
He stressed the port operation is being monitored by the government agencies and Ministry of Transport (MOT) and the LLPM would not resort to profiteering in its business activities.
On the recent establishment of a regulatory body, Labuan Port Authority (LPA), he said it would better facilitate the port operation.
“The establishment of the authority had long been planned by the MOT and finally materialised, and we are optimistic it will function accordingly and effectively and help regulate the port operation,” he said.
Alias believed with the strong support from the government especially the MOT and relevant government agencies, Labuan’s geographical location at a crossroads of the East ASEAN Growth Area(BIMP-EAGA) regions, it would emerge as an important calling station between East Malaysia and other Asian countries in the regions and that contributed to its success as a trading port.
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Leow Tiong Lai last month (March) announced the appointment Tanjung Piai, Johor Member of Parliament Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng, 53 to lead the newly-established government statutory body LPA.
It was learnt that Labuan MP, Datuk Rozman Isli has been appointed as his deputy, while the board members comprises of MOT officials, Ministry of Finance officials, UKAS (Unit Kerjasama Awam Swasta under the Prime Minister’s Department), Labuan MCA chairman Datuk Chin Hon Vui and other government officials.
Special Report by Jailani Hassan (Bernama)