Shipbuilding, ship repairing sector needs policy update

By SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

The shipbuilding and ship repairing (SBSR) industry policies must be adjusted according to the country’s digital adoption and the Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0) incentives.

Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Dr Ong Kian Ming (picture) said the realignment of the industry will allow the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to benefit from the country’s allocation pertaining to the acceleration of IR4.0.

“We need to update policies such as the Malaysian Shipbuilding and Ship Repair Industry Strategic Plan and the Malaysia Shipping Master Plan.

“When the policies were launched, not much attention was given to the IR4.0,” he said at the Malaysia International Marine Expo 2018 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Ong added that by adopting the IR4.0, SMEs within the SBSR industry could rely on the incentives, which were recently announced in Budget 2019, as well as the National Policy on Industry 4.0, Industry4WRD, which was launched by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad last month.

“With the launch of Industry4WRD along with the incentives announced in Budget 2019, it is time for them (the industry players) to move forward and achieve the IR4.0 standards.

“We do not want to only focus on the big players as they already have the capacity to adopt the new technology…(in fact) we want to focus on the SMEs.

“Moving forward, we will see which sections of IR4.0 that are aligned to the SBSR players. There are 11 components of IR4.0 and not all of them are relevant to the shipbuilding industry,” he said.

Ong also said small firms that have been steering the country’s SBSR industry have the capabilities to cater to the naval demand in the commercial sector.

“There are around 100 shipyards in Malaysia and only one-third are located in Peninsular Malaysia,” he said, adding that most of the shipbuilders are based in Sabah and Sarawak.

As such, Ong said there are still plenty of opportunities in the SBSR sector, particularly in ship design; parts and components manufacturing; system integration; and other marine equipment production.

“The significance of our marine industry is undeniable as we are one of the four Asean countries that exceed 100% of the GDP in total trade.

“We are at about 140% of our GDP and 90% of our world trade is carried by seaborne transport,” he said.

He added that the SBSR sector, which currently employs over 15,000 people, is a subset of the country’s marine industry and recorded a total trade of RM6.1 billion in 2017.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Industry-Government Group for High Technology chairman Tan Sri Dr Ahmad Tajuddin Ali said the adoption of IR4.0 will abate the industry’s hurdles and allow the local shipbuilders to equally compete in the global market.

“The SBSR industry has been neglected. We have to buy all of these small tug boats and other vessels because nobody is producing them.

“However, with the IR4.0, it makes the hurdles less prominent. With the right manpower to manoeuvre the technology, our players will be more competitive.

“Some of the players in Sabah and Sarawak have been able to export tug boats for the marine industry in the Middle East,” he added.