Tech giants ask Malaysia PM to reinstate foreign ship cable waiver: report

FILE PHOTO: Microsoft signs are seen at the third China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Microsoft, Google and Facebook have asked Malaysia’s Prime Minister to reinstate an exemption allowing non-Malaysian ships to carry out repairs to submarine cables in the country’s waters, online news service Malaysiakini reported.

Malaysia’s Transport Ministry this month overturned a so-called cabotage exemption granted in 2019 by the previous government that allowed the use of non-Malaysian vessels.

Without this waiver, foreign vessels must apply for domestic shipping licensing exemption (DSLE), leading to longer repair times, the companies said in a letter to the Malaysian premier, which was cited by Malaysiakini in a report on Monday.

“It does not project regulatory stability or a policy environment that is conducive to foreign investment,” the tech giants were quoted as saying by Malaysiakini.

Reuters was unable to confirm the letter or details of the Malaysiakini report. Spokesmen for the Prime Ministers’ office and the Transport Ministry both declined to comment.

Facebook and Alphabet’s Google declined to comment on the letter. Malaysia Internet Exchange, which the group agreed would communicate on its behalf, did not respond to requests for comment.

Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong told parliament on Tuesday the decision to lift the cabotage exemption takes into consideration the outflow of foreign money via freight payments.

“The Transport Ministry’s responsibility is to protect the interests of Malaysians and foster the domestic shipping industry, this was not a unilateral decision,” Wee said.

Foreign vessels can apply for a domestic shipping license to carry out services that cannot be met by domestic ships by using an electronic system, the minister added.

(Reporting by Mei Mei Chu; Editing by Alexander Smith)