| Siti Hajar |
THE country’s connectivity has notched another milestone following the maiden voyage by one of the world’s largest shipping companies which has included Brunei as part of its route portfolio.
In an event that took place yesterday, Minister of Communications Pehin Orang Kaya Hamzah Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdullah bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar officially waved off one of EverGreen Line’s cargo ships from Muara Port in a symbolic gesture that has opened up limitless possibilities for the Sultanate.
With Vision 2035 also aimed towards sustainable economic growth, this addition that provides Brunei easier access to the rest of the world and vice-versa is timely, the minister said in his opening remarks.
“It also indicates that Brunei has potential market growth,” he said, as he expressed hope for EverGreen’s presence to become a “beacon” for other shipping companies to consider Muara Port as their choice partner and destination.
“We will remain committed to delivering a conducive business environment and optimise cost of efficiencies, time and capacity utilisation at our ports through continuous improvement initiatives to deliver robust port services that meet industry needs and expectations without compromising safety and security aspects,” the minister pledged as he called upon other industry players to reap the benefits of the country’s port developments, in line with the country’s aspirations.
During a media conference with EverGreen Line President Jack Wu, it was explained that the company’s services span 200 ports across the world, and because of the easy access to these international markets, Bruneian exporters will be provided the opportunity to reach hundreds of thousands of customers.
On the other end of the spectrum, international companies are also provided the chance to invest in the country at a cheaper price, especially with EverGreen’s one-stop service that reduces the hassle of docking at the nearest port to transfer shipment on regional cargo services, and then making its way to the country.
“We wanted to provide this service not only to Bruneians but also the rest of the world – faster transit time, lower cost and better rates to and from Brunei,” he explained, adding that customers from some of the biggest markets have requested EverGreen to ship directly to Brunei.
For the foreseeable future, EverGreen plans to dock only once a week in Brunei. This, they highlighted, “is enough” – based on the local demand, but once the country increases export-based products, considerations for more frequent dockings will be made.
With regional growth expected to increase by five to six per cent, the minister explained, “the prospect of transshipment containers in the region and therefore in Brunei Darussalam is extremely good, and it is in this respect that we will strive to develop this industry.
“It is our desire to see vibrant transshipment activities at Muara Port serving the regional market.”
The transport and communications sector is currently contributing an approximate 4.7 per cent of the country’s total Gross Domestic Product and “it is our strategic goal to make it not just a supporting industry to other industries, but to make it a vibrant, dynamic and growing industry by itself” by way of contributing to the country’s economic growth.
Apart from opening up the country’s ports, other initiatives in improving the quality of port services include the extension of the Muara Container Terminal; the Pulau Muara Besar project to enable bigger vessels to dock in Brunei; the implementation of a Port Masterplan and commercialisation activities to promote Muara Port.