Sepanggar Port Slated to Become a BIMP-EAGA Hub
Malaysia is expanding the Sepanggar Bay Container Port in Sabah into a transshipment hub for the BIMP-EAGA subregion. Started last year, the 1.03-billion-ringgit (about $255 million) project is upgrading port facilities and equipment and doubling the container terminal’s capacity to more than a million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) per year.
According to a report from national news agency Bernama, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Sabah and Sarawak Affairs) Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili expects the expansion to help boost Sabah’s economy. During a recent visit to the port, the minister noted that the project is on track to be completed by 2024.
The expansion project includes the construction of a 1-kilometer jetty and reclamation of about 20 hectares for the container yard as well seabed deepening. This will enable the container port to handle more volume, become more efficient, and offer competitive freight rates.
Sepanggar port has taken over the container operations from Kota Kinabalu Port, which is about 10 kilometers away and being redeveloped into a waterfront city for the cruise tourism market.
The expansion of the container port is expected to benefit local industries as it is strategically located near agricultural, aquaculture, and mineral resources. It will improve sea linkages in BIMP-EAGA. Sabah is part of the subregion’s Greater Sulu–Sulawesi Corridor (GSSC), which also includes North Sulawesi in Indonesia, and Mindanao and Palawan in the Philippines. Sepanggar port is expected to also serve as a gateway to the People’s Republic of China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea.
Improving connectivity is a key strategy of BIMP-EAGA in spurring economic growth in poor and remote areas of the subregion. The business community has been calling for the return of transport services in the subregion, which were disrupted by travel restrictions during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The BIMP-EAGA Business Council expressed fears that COVID-19 may overturn the gains made in improving connectivity in the subregion.
Before the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Sepanggar handled 267,094 TEUs in 2019, which is 70% of the overall container volume handled by port operator Sabah Ports Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of SuriaGroup. Sabah Ports manages other ports, including Sandakan Port, which is also being positioned as a hub for BIMP-EAGA with the recent addition of four berths to the main wharf.