PETALING JAYA: KA Petra Sdn Bhd, a homegrown ship-to-ship (STS) transfer specialist, has signed a heads of agreement with Hutchison Port Holdings Ltd to jointly develop the world’s largest STS transfer hub in Johor Baru.

Hutchison Ports, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-headquartered CK Hutchison Holdings, is the world’s leading port investor, developer and operator with a network of port operations in 51 ports spanning 26 countries throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, the Americas and Australasia.

Under the agreement, KA Petra will have 70% interest in the project, while Hutchison Ports will take a strategic 30% stake, according to a joint statement by the both companies yesterday.

Based on preliminary studies, the STS hub construction is estimated to cost between US$150 million and US$180 million (RM611.7 million and RM734.1 million) and will be funded by a combination of internally generated funds and debt financing.

The construction work will be done in phases with commencement expected within the next 12 months.

“We embarked on the STS hub idea two years ago as a solution to address the demand for more STS berthing space. Through the close cooperation from the government, Hutchison Ports, our engineering and technical partners, and our very own KA Petra team, we are now realising the STS Hub dream,” KA Petra executive chairman Datuk Shahrul Amirul said.

The hub is poised to trigger a resurgence of the Malaysian maritime sector, by becoming a catalyst to other related businesses in the industry.

Shahrul added the hub and related businesses will attract many highly skilled Malaysians, who are overseas, to return to Malaysia and provide skills and training to the next generation of professionals in the maritime industry.

The STS Hub will have the capacity to store over nine million tonnes of petroleum products and with the International Maritime Organisation implementing IMO 2020, a regulation limiting sulphur content in marine fuels from Jan 1, 2020, the STS hub will be well positioned to become a major trading hub in the region.

“Overall, KA Petra estimates that gross domestic product (GDP) contributions from maritime sector activities in the STS hub will be in the region of RM18 billion to the Malaysian GDP annually, equivalent to 1.5% of Malaysia’s GDP today,” he added.