Yong: Time for a maritime academy
Published on: Thursday, February 02, 2017

Kota Kinabalu: Tragic incidents at sea, which could have been avoided, can be greatly reduced if Sabah has complete infrastructure for its maritime economy and a culture of professionalism among a pool of trained mariners backed by fully equipped maritime authorities.Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) President Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee said in recent years, Sabah's maritime community has progressed from merely taking part in leisure activities to business activities, especially tourism.

Therefore, he said Sabah is in need of more trained mariners, seafarers and professional boat operators guided by a legal and licensing framework with proper supervision and enforcement.

"Instead, the haphazard responses of Sabah's authorities to incidents and accidents at sea show a lack of grip on maritime incidents. A healthy maritime industry necessarily includes the business community who is well versed on maritime matters.

"As I can see, some maritime activities are operated by amateurs with little experience.

A case in point is that one of the crew in the ill-fated catamaran bound for Pulau Mengalum was a vegetable seller who had only just joined the crew of the catamaran," he said in a statement.

Yong added that as part of the building up of qualified maritime community in Sabah, a maritime academy or training centre is long overdue.

He insisted that the need for a maritime academy is nothing new and as early as 1997, the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) had prepared a concept paper entitled "Sabah Maritime Academy".

He said the necessity of a training institute was highlighted in official reports on Bimp-Eaga integration with a further "Strategic Maritime Planning in Sabah" presented to the Sabah government in 1998.

"In fact, in view of cross-border crimes at Sabah's Esszone, I had two years ago reminded in writing to IDS the urgency of having a Maritime Academy so that Sabah can assert ourselves in our maritime economy and security.

"This is because most Sabahans have a land-based mindset. We tend to view the seas, such as the Sulu Sea, as a barrier separating the land whereas the peoples of the Philippines view the sea as a bridge linking the land mass and islands together.

"This land-based mindset makes us view the seas as a security liability rather than a security and asset," he said.

Yong said that it is in Sabah's long term economic and security interests to develop a comprehensive maritime industry so that it can be in control of its seas and maritime economy.

As such, he said a Maritime Academy to develop a large pool of qualified Sabahan mariners, seafarers and maritime engineers, among others, is long overdue.


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