DAP protests Kuching Port Authority maintenance fees

KPA to charge shipping firms channel maintenance fee even though dredging project yet to begin, says state DAP chief


KUCHING: The DAP has criticised a new tariff to be imposed on shipping firms for vessels that berth at the Kuching Port Pending terminal.
On June 10, the Kuching Port Authority (KPA) announced that it will impose a new tariff known as the channel maintenance fee of RM1 per tonne of cargo/passengers within its limit area effective from June 1.
The tariff was supposed to have been levied retroactively, but the imposition of the tariff was later postponed to July 1.
KPA said it derived its authority to impose the tariff from the gazetting of Kuching Port Authority (Dues, Rates & Charges) (Amendments) Regulations 2016 early this year.
The tariff applies to movement of cargo or passengers in and out of Sarawak. Movement of cargo and passengers within Sarawak are exempted.
A Federal Government-funded dredging project, estimated to cost some RM360 million and implemented under the 11th Malaysia Plan, will be undertaken to deepen a 23.4km-long navigational channel from the Pending terminal to Tanjung Po, a coastal promontory.
Dredging works has been slated to commence later this year, and will be completed by 2019. The Sarawak authorities are required to fund the maintenance of the dredged channel.
State DAP leader Chong Chieng Jen said KPA stands to collect RM11 million annually for the maintenance of a channel that has yet to be dredged.
“This is similar to charging taxpayers for the maintenance of a road before it is even built. Before they deepen the channel, they charge you for the maintenance of the channel first.”
“This is most ridiculous. It is daylight robbery and this is a policy of the Sarawak state government,” he told reporters in Kuching today.
Currently, cargo ships await for high tides in order to sail up the Sarawak River. A deepened channel would allow larger cargo vessels and cruise ships to berth at the Pending Terminal.
The proposed dredging works would deepen that stretch of the Sarawak river to 9 metres deep, with tidal water up to 12 metres (draught). The river has a current depth of 7.5 metres and a width of 190 metres.
“The facilities are not there. The channel has not been deepened but the maintenance charges are there already. This is not a Federal government policy. This is a state policy, and it is imposed so shortly after the state election,” Chong said.
“Obviously the intention to charge the additional fees was there before the election. But now the true colours of the Sarawak state government are being revealed,” he said.
This year, a RM50 million allocation has been set aside for the project to pay for an environmental impact assessment study and hydraulic study to be carried out.
Kuching Port Authority (KPA) general manager Rosli Saup was quoted as saying last Monday that the fee collection is expected to be between RM9 million and RM10 million annually, and will be channeled into the state government coffers to fund the maintenance cost of the dredged channel.
- Freemalaysiatoday june 29, 2016