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Region’s ports have good future, says economist

Economist Hoo Ke Ping has dismissed speculation that the Carey Island Port project will not come to fruition, saying he foresees work on it to proceed in a few years’ time.

Commenting on a press report about MMC Corp and Putrajaya being reluctant to go ahead with the RM140 billion project, he said such a development was to be expected considering the current slowdown of activities at the country’s ports.

But the lull would be temporary, he added.

He forecast that the shipping industry in Southeast Asia would in time be boosted by the growth of trade in the region and by China’s increasingly friendly attitude towards its neighbours.

“The size of the pie in this region will increase,” he said, noting projections by various quarters that Asia will account for half of the world’s gross domestic product by 2050.

The Straits Times of Singapore recently reported that that Malaysian government and MMC were hesitating over whether to pour money into the Carey Island project because cargo volume at Port Klang has been falling.

The report said the government was satisfied, for the moment, with allowing the expansion of Port Klang’s Westport.

Hoo said he expected Singapore’s Tuas Port to be the focal point of trade in Southeast Asia in years to come.

“But even so,” he added, “there should be enough of the pie for the Carey Island Port. I see it complementing the Tuas Port rather than competing with it.”

The Malaysian National Shippers Council meanwhile said it made sense for the project to be shelved temporarily, noting the excess capacity at Malaysia’s existing ports now that many shipping companies have shifted to Singapore.

“I think it will be difficult for the Carey Island Port to compete head-to-head with Tuas,” said the council’s secretary-general, Nathan K Suppiah.

But he said this didn’t mean that the project should be abandoned.

“We must remember that at some point, with the growth of trade and with the Tuas port likely becoming the focal point of trade in the region, that port is bound to face issues of congestion and overloading,” he said.

Carey Island would then serve as an alternative, he added.

However, he said the government needed to ensure that its policies would boost trade and that port efficiency would be improved.
“If we improve our port efficiency and make it more attractive for ships and businesses to set up shop here, then we are on the right track. Our ports will naturally become more sustainable.”

Last May, MMC said physical work on Carey Island’s 10,000-hectare development would likely commence in 2020, contradicting earlier reports that it would begin by the end of this year.
Source: Free Malaysia Today

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