Dubai’s DP World may consider taking a stake in one of the Malaysian ports, including Port Klang, whose free zone once fully operational by the end of this year, will be managed by Jafza International – the international arm of Jebel Ali Free Zone.

Chan Kong Choy, Malaysian minister of transport, has said that Malaysian ports are open for foreign investments.

All major ports are owned by the private sector in Malaysia although there is some foreign participation in some of them. Hutchinson has a 30% stake in Westports, while PTP has foreign participation of 30% from Maersk-Sealand.

“Foreign investors are most welcome to talk to our port operators. We have no restrictions for them in dealing with foreign operators,” says Chan.

However, the executive chairman of Westports, has been quoted as saying: “We prefer to manage our ports by ourselves.” He says that port fees in Malaysia were the cheapest in the world. Container terminal handling charges for 20ft boxes currently stand at US$60, while for 40ft it is US$90. The transhipment rate is US$36 for a 20ft container and US$55 for a 40ft container. Freight to the Middle East region is currently quoted at US$700.”

Trade between Malaysia and west Asia is on the upward trend. The country’s trade with OIC countries has expanded significantly over the last decade, increasing by more than fourfold from US$4.1bn in 1995 to US$18.4bn in 2005. During the same period, exports increased from US$2.8bn to US$10.05bn, while imports grew from US$1.3bn to US$8.39bn.

Exports to west Asia amounted to M$1.65bn in March 2006, a surge of 51.7% from M$1.09bn in February. All the markets in this region recorded increases in exports, with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Yemen and Iran registering the most significant growth.

PKFZ would be mirroring as closely as possible Jafza’s incentives and privileges and a plan formulating those policies will be submitted to the prime minister.

According to Noel Gulliver, managing director of PKFZ, some 10% of land in PKFZ has been already booked by UAE-based companies, which are planning to invest in total US$200mn in the zone.

Developed in an area of 405ha within Port Klang, PKFZ is Malaysia’s first fully integrated free commercial and industrial zone. Being adjacent to Westports and close to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), investors in the free zone will be able to conveniently connect to sea or air transportation to or from any destination in the world.

Malaysia, as one of the biggest trading nations in the Muslim world, is widely recognised and acknowledged for its certification standard for Halal food. It also has a highly developed logistics network including ports, airports, rail and road connections, and is fast becoming a hub for Islamic financing as well.