Elevating maritime industry to become top pillar of Malaysia’s economy

The Malaysian maritime industry, being one of the oldest in the country, has both significant potential as well as challenges. By planning and mitigating the challenges, Mohamed Safwan Othman, chairman of Malaysia Shipowners’ Association (MASA), envisions a future for the maritime industry where it becomes one of the strongest pillars of the Malaysian economy.

To accomplish this goal, he expressed to Maritime Fairtrade his intention to become the voice of the industry, forging valuable relationships with government agencies, and showcasing Malaysia’s maritime sector both domestically and internationally.

He is adamant that a solid plan needs to be in place to address the maritime industry’s troubles. To efficiently execute such plans, the support of government agencies is imperative to raise the significance of local Malaysian shipowners. In addition, the participation of other involved stakeholders, which includes government-linked companies, is necessary.

What are the key challenges and how do you propose to address them? 

The maritime industry primarily operates within the service sector. By examining the latest balance of payment data, it is evident that Malaysia’s services sector is experiencing a deficit. This indicates that the country relies more on importing services than exporting them, making it a net importer in this sector. 

If we delve deeper, it becomes evident that transport service is one of the major contributors to the outflow of approximately RM33 billion in deficits. To foster growth in the industry, we suggest adopting a comprehensive approach that emphasizes fiscal and financial assistance. 

The support of Malaysian government plays a crucial role in attracting potential investors and facilitating the expansion of industry.

How do you plan to enhance collaboration and partnerships, both domestically and internationally, to promote sustainable growth? 

The environmental impact of the maritime industry has gained significant attention in recent discussions, with a particular focus on prioritizing sustainability as one of its core principles. 

In line with this, we intend to spearhead various initiatives and collaborate with the government and other leading maritime enterprises to address this important agenda.

MASA plays a vital role in facilitating communication within the maritime industry. We provide a platform for collaboration and partnerships among stakeholders, with the goal of forming strong bonds and promoting mutual growth in the maritime industry.

For instance, we regularly organize a variety of events such as dialogues, conferences, and seminars aimed at fostering networking and collaboration within the maritime community. 

Our most recent conference was the Malaysia Maritime Week 2023 held from 20 to 23 June 2023. The focus of this event was on discussing and addressing the latest greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations.

Caption: Mohamad Safwan Bin Othman (left) handing over token of appreciation to Minister of Transport, YB Anthony Loke Siew Fook during MASA Annual Dinner 2023.

What specific strategies or plans you have in mind for promoting environmental sustainability? 

Currently, the primary strategy employed for shipping is the utilization of low-sulphur fuel oil (LSFO). This approach aims to reduce sulphur emissions and promote environmental sustainability in the maritime industry. 

In order to promote environmental sustainability, there is a statutory requirement for ships to comply with the Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) and Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII). These measures are aimed at encouraging the shipping industry to reduce its carbon footprint and improve energy efficiency. 

The Ministry of Transport has assigned us with creating an action plan, ensuring that ships in Malaysia are prepared to meet the EEXI and CII requirements.

How do you plan to engage with government agencies and policymakers to advocate for policies that support the growth and development of Malaysia’s maritime sector? 

This year, we have actively collaborated and worked closely with various government agencies, with a special emphasis on engaging with the Ministry of Transport. 

Specifically, we have been appointed as the Lead Agency responsible for re-establishing the National Shipping and Port Council (NSPC). This council falls under Advisory Committee 3 and has been tasked with examining the financial assistance available to the maritime sector.

Moreover, we have been vigorously promoting the enhancement of Malaysia’s domestic shipping industry, particularly in Sabah and Sarawak. According to the available data, it is evident that Malaysia is currently facing a significant outflow of ringgit, which puts the nation at a disadvantage. 

In spite of the delicate nature of this issue, we have chosen to approach it in a cooperative manner. We are committed to finding solutions and making a positive impact.

Can you provide examples of initiatives or policies you have implemented that have positively impacted the maritime industry? 

Serving as the chairman of the Malaysia Shipowners’ Association, I am devoted to creating a closer bond between the organization’s members and to advocating policies that will ensure transparency and honesty in the maritime sector.

For the betterment of the industry, any novel policies or initiatives devised are implemented. A regular monthly get-together is held to promote unity within the organization and help to steer the maritime industry in decision-making.

Caption: (From left) Mohamed Safwan Bin Othman accompanying Deputy Secretary General Policy, YBhg. Dato’ Normah Osman, Malaysia Marine Department Director General, Capt Mohamad Halim and Deputy Minister of Transport, YB Datuk Haji Hasbi Habibollah during Malaysia Maritime Week 2023 Exhibition which was held last June in Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

How do you plan to leverage technology and innovation to drive efficiency and competitiveness? 

By taking advantage of telecommunications technologies, advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), and many other technological developments, all of this technology can be employed to go beyond current regulations.

Integrating all these technologies into the maritime workflow is essential to increasing efficiency and maintaining the maritime chain with a quicker communication technique between all entities involved.

For instance, the Maritime Single Window, which MOT is driving forward, should be adopted by all maritime agencies and businesses, as it can considerably cut back bureaucratic procedures and bureaucracy that has been impeding the maritime sector.

What steps will you take to ensure a skilled workforce is available? 

MASA is tackling this issue from two angles: 

  • As a board member of the Central Mercantile Marine Fund (CMMF), MASA can track progress and give recommendations to focus on upskilling and re-skilling of Malaysian seafarers. Moreover, MASA is the lead organization of the CMMF-sponsored Upskilling Seafarers Training with RANACO.
  • We have a great working rapport with Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT), which it capitalizes on to make sure the personnel trained by UMT meets the requirements of the industry. In addition, we remain in contact with all maritime education and training centres in Malaysia.

Caption: (From left) Mohamed Safwan Bin Othman, Deputy Secretary General Policy, YBhg. Dato’ Normah Osman, Deputy Minister of Transport, YB Datuk Haji Hasbi Habibollah, MISC Berhad’s president and group CEO, Captain Rajalingam Subramaniam and Malaysia Marine Department Director General Capt Mohamad Halim, at MISC booth, Malaysia Maritime Week 2023.

How do you intend to engage with MASA members and ensure their voices are heard? 

The “Open Door Policy” has been adopted by MASA, granting everyone the chance to communicate their concerns and proposals. This has been crucial in MASA’s goal of having their voice be heard.

Our events such as the Annual General Meeting and the new “Teh Tarik Session” provide members with an outlet to express their ideas. Additionally, members are always welcome to go to the MASA office in Putrajaya and meet with the MASA Secretariat.

All photos credit: MASA

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