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MyIX: Malaysia doesn’t have required DP2 ships to fix undersea cables

Malaysia Internet Exchange (MyIX) Chairman Chiew Kok Hin has said that Malaysia does not have the right vessels required by tech giants to undertake undersea cable repairs. This comes after the Malaysia Shipowners’ Association (MASA) claim that there are four ships owned by Malaysian companies that are qualified and certified for undersea cable and maintenance.

According to The Edge Malaysia’s recent report (“No Malaysian ships with proper specs to fix undersea cables”), the MyIX Chairman said there are no Malaysian-flagged vessels that can do the job according to the best practices recommended by the International Cable Protection Committee (ICPC). MyIX has urged MASA to prove which local shipping company has a Malaysian-flagged Dynamic Position 2 (DP2) cable repair ship, however, there are none with the prerequisite technical capabilities to conduct deep sea repairs.

Chiew added that DP2 provides vessels with an extra level of backup for positioning the ship during deep sea repairs. It is specifically requested by cable owners and investors due to safety concerns and insurance requirements.

He also said that it is not a case of local versus foreign. If a local company can offer a vessel with the required capabilities in terms of suitability, safety, specs and competitiveness, the cable investors and owners will be more than happy to support Malaysian companies, but there’s no local DP2 ship at the moment. Chiew also shared concerns that the recent revocation of the cabotage exemption puts Malaysia’s digital infrastructure at risk as it has made Malaysia less attractive as a destination for infrastructure investment.

Responding to MASA claims that telcos can easily apply for exemption for foreign ships and it would only take 2-3 days, Chiew said the primary cause of delays actually came from MASA. He added that the blocking by MASA members and the delay of issuing Domestic Shipping License Exemption Consent Letter (DCL) has caused delays of up to 75 days in the past 3 years.

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Just a month before Transport Minister Dr Wee Ka Siong revoked the cabotage exemption, Chiew had praised the Ministry of Transport for making exemptions for foreign vessels to conduct undersea cable repairs in Malaysian waters. He said the Ministry of Transport are unsung heroes for their ongoing commitment to boost Malaysia’s competitiveness in attracting global technology players to our shores and it provided assurance for foreign players investing in our country’s internet backbone.

MyIX is a consortium of local Internet Service Providers (ISP) that was formed in 2006 to promote direct connectivity among each other. The committee consists of local industry players with representatives from AIMS Data Centre, Celcom, Digi, Maxis, Telekom Malaysia and Time Dotcom. Some of MyIX’s international members include Akamai, Amazon, Cloudflare, Facebook, Google, Huawei, Microsoft, Netflix, Tencent and Yahoo.

After the cabotage exemption was revoked last month, MyIX along with other tech giants including Facebook, Google and Microsoft had sent a memo to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin expressing concerns that the decision will affect Malaysia’s internet speed and quality.

It was recently reported that one of the tech giants have told the Transport Minister that it would review its cable investments in Malaysia. Meanwhile, MDEC was reported to have released a paper which highlighted that the cabotage policy had caused accumulative delays of up to 100 days annually for undersea cable repairs in Malaysian territorial waters and exclusive Economic Zones.

The cabotage exemption for undersea cable repairs was introduced by the previous Pakatan Harapan administration in April 2019 after it was requested by Telekom Malaysia and Time Dotcom with the support from the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia. Former Transport Minister Anthony Loke said prior to the exemption, undersea cable repair works took an average of 27 days in Malaysia which isn’t up to par compared to our neighbouring countries.

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However, MASA recently alleged that during the exemption period, a single Singaporean company had monopolised undersea cable repairs in Malaysian waters. They also said that the foreign company took a longer 48 days to conduct the repairs.

[ IMAGE SOURCE ]

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Alexander Wong