18/02/2008 (The Star Online) - POIC Sabah Sdn Bhd's palm oil industrial cluster (POIC) project in Lahad Datu has steadily attracted “quality” investors since its launch over the past two years.
POIC is Malaysia's first dedicated large-scale palm oil downstream industrial park on a 2,000ha site to be developed in the next 18 years.
To date, it has secured investments worth RM1.8bil from 18 companies, including foreign groups from South Korea, Britain, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Among its major investors are Chemical Company of Malaysia Bhd (CCM), Lahad Datu Edible Oils Sdn Bhd (part of the Wilmar-Kuok Group), QL Resources Bhd, Australia-based Sterling Biofuels International Ltd, South Korea-based ECO Solutions Co Ltd, and Union Harvest Group, which is partly owned by Sumifert Sdn Bhd that is linked to Japanese multinational Sumitomo Corp.
The bulk of investments is in biodiesel and fertiliser projects. Currently, Sabah-based SPC Biodiesel Sdn Bhd and South Korea-based Global Bio-diesel Sdn Bhd have started operations at POIC.
CCM, meanwhile, is among the four fertiliser companies that have made investments to set up their manufacturing plants at POIC.
Group managing director Datuk Dr Mohamad Hashim Ahmad Tajudin told StarBiz that POIC was well positioned with good infrastructure and good port facilities.
“For CCM, building our plant in POIC enables us to be close to our customers in Sabah,” he said.
CCM subsidiary, CCM Agriculture (Sabah) Sdn Bhd, is setting up a RM75mil fertiliser plant on 16.6 acres in POIC, slated for operation in 2009.
Hashim said the location of the new plant was chosen due to its proximity to the expansive agricultural land within Sabah, Sarawak and Kalimantan, Indonesia.
“This will allow our fertilisers to be easily available to customers and the agricultural community nationwide as well as in the Asean region,” he said.
He added that POIC's strategic location would enable CCM to provide faster service to its customers in the area by reducing logistics, storage and handling costs, thus boosting overall efficiency and enhancing long-term competitiveness.
CCM and the three other fertiliser producers at POIC are expected to produce a total of 700,000 tonnes per year.
It is believed that two more fertiliser groups with total production estimated at 200,000 tonnes per year are also expected to invest in POIC this year.
For South Korea-based Global Bio-diesel Sdn Bhd, the fast access to palm oil feedstock was the main attraction for the group to set up a plant in POIC.
The company is setting up a US$65mil biodiesel plant with production capacity of 200,000 tonnes per year.
Business division manager Chew Sin Bui said: “As a producer, we need to be close to the source of our feedstock. We chose Sabah given its status as the largest producer of crude palm oil in Malaysia.”
He said the company's plant was ideally located at POIC as Lahad Datu had four palm oil refineries compared with Sandakan, which had only two refineries.
Global Bio-diesel parent ECO Solutions is South Korea's industry leader in environmental engineering and bio-energy.
POIC Sabah chief executive officer Dr Pang Teik Wai told StarBiz that POIC was targeting to attract 10 to 15 companies with investments estimated at RM1.5bil to RM2bil this year.
He said: “We believe that POIC stands to be one of the major beneficiaries to the newly launched Sabah Development Corridor given the support from the government in terms of funding.”
Pang said POIC Lahad Datu continued to get encouraging enquiries from local and foreign groups given its strategic location, good infrastructure and cost competitiveness.
“Over the next 15 years, we hope to attract RM100bil worth of investments,” he added.
Under its master plan (2006-2021), POIC Sabah envisages the development for palm oil industrial cluster and possibly a timber and cocoa cluster.
The initial two phases of development have been completed. The master plan also envisages the development of Lahad Datu into a regional hub for vegetable oils.
To facilitate the factories' needs at POIC and prepare Lahad Datu to be a major regional port, big plans are in place for jetty development.
The first phase of jetty development involves the construction of two linear jetties with 10 to 12-metre drafts, which can accommodate barges of 3,000 deadweight tonnes (DWT) and vessels of 20,000 DWT.
In the pipeline are additional two linear jetties and a main jetty of 20-metre draft with four berths for vessels of up to 100,000 DWT.