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Ships want a shortcut: Studies to start on Thai canal and land bridge

Caitlin Ashworth



Strait of Malacca

Thailand could actually sliced in half by a canal right across the Malay Peninsula, linking the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. Proposals have been in the works for hundreds of years, but now the idea is popping up again, and alternatives, as shipping companies try and find ways to cut their costs.

The Thai government plans to hold public hearings and start feasibility studies on the Thai Canal, also known as the 9A canal route. A land bridge has also being discussed as another shipping route shortcut, linking new seaports at both ends of the land bridge.

10 million baht has been set aside in the fiscal 2021 budget for hearings and studies on the canal project as well as a double track railway link between Chumphon (on the Gulf of Thailand) and Ranong (on the Andaman Sea), according to National Economic and Social Development Council secretary general Thosaporn Sirisamphand. He says the hearings will begin in October, the start of the 2021 fiscal year.

The Thai Canal is part of the Kra Canal project, which has been talked about for centuries. A canal would go through the skinniest point in the southern peninsula to allow ships to cut through Thailand rather than sailing all the way around Singapore island at the bottom of the peninsula, and squeezing through the busy (and sometimes dangerous) Strait of Malacca. The proposed canal would cut out about 1,200 kilometres off the shipping journey. A possible cost for the shortcut is about 28 billion baht.

The Kra or ‘Thai’ canal would work in exactly the same was as the Panama Canal, linking two bodies of water and providing an economic shortcut for ships.

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha had also ordered the National Economic and Social Development Board and the Office of the National Security Council to look into the project back in 2018. Government officials under former PM Thaksin Shinawatra also set up a committee to conduct a feasibility study on the canal project, but the plan was scrapped in 2006 when the administration was overthrown in a military coup.

The Thai Canal Association has pushed for the project over the past few years. Many members of the association are retired generals, politicians and prominent executives with Chinese ties.

A 100 kilometre land bridge is also being studied. It would link seaports at the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea by highway and railway. Earlier this week, Prayut ordered for a new feasibility study on the land bridge proposal. But some critics say the land bridge proposal is unfeasible due to the increased handling costs which would override any economic or time savings of the shortcut.

There has been plenty of controversy around the land bridge idea. Port & Free Zone Global Expert, Tony Restall (aka Mr. Free Zone), called the proposal a “joke” and “beyond logical thinking.” Tony says there would be a number of extra handling costs and there would be no valid gain.

“To save what? 1-2 days sailing time around Singapore and through the Malacca Straits? Not only is it a completely ill-conceived idea, the numbers will never stack up and the vessel operators would never even consider it viable.”

Ships want a shortcut: Studies to start on Thai canal and land bridge | News by Thaiger

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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  1. Avatar

    Issan John

    Friday, September 11, 2020 at 10:47 am

    … yawn ….

    • Avatar


      Friday, September 11, 2020 at 4:27 pm

      It looks like thailand is going to have to choose. A canal for Chinese war ships. Or friendship of United States.

      • Avatar

        Rinky Stingpiece

        Friday, September 11, 2020 at 11:43 pm

        Most countries are, but really, talk of the sleeping dragon awakening seem a little overdone.

        I don’t know why the Thaiger keep pushing this one, unless it’s just for clickbait.

        It takes about a day for a ship to get through a canal this long, and they have to go in one a time from one direction or the other. For the amount of time it might save, you may as well put wheels on them and drive them over the isthmus; or wings and fly them over.

        Whilst we’re in the realms of sci-fi engineering projects, why not build a giant tunnel, and put each robot ship inside a capsule and suck them through the isthmus?

        Better still… a catapult…

        or even.. a giant conveyer belt where the containers are loaded off one ship and onto another one on the other side?

        For oil tankers, just connect them up either side with a long straight pipe through the middle and suck the cargo through.

        Even better, make a ship 1,200km wide with wheels on stilts, and it could drive over Sumatra, Java, and then sprout helicopter wings and fly over Borneo.

        Or maybe have giant hovercrafts to race across Satun and past Hat Yai.

        Or, or, or, flying saucers, why are we still using ships? flying saucers could float on the sea and go in any direction…

        so many better ideas that wrecking the environment like this to become debt slaves of China.

  2. Avatar


    Friday, September 11, 2020 at 8:26 pm

    9a is a route where economic benefits are less, but political influence from current politicians is high. There are better ways, and no, that is not to ALSO build a land bridge.
    Avoid Chinese influences and develop the canals environment. That will breed success.

  3. Avatar


    Saturday, September 12, 2020 at 8:42 am

    Will the new Thai submarines be able to use the canal.

  4. Avatar


    Sunday, September 13, 2020 at 3:41 am

    Satun – Songhkla along route 406 would be the best option

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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

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