The transport minister is feeling optimistic about a new land bridge development which will connect the southern provinces of Ranong and Chumphon. The Bangkok Post reports that the project will link Chumphon, on the eastern coast of the Gulf of Thailand, to Ranong, on the Andaman Sea. Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob says the result will be a transit port with a capacity to rival Hong Kong.
The minister says the land bridge will be able to handle around 20 million twenty-foot equivalent units of cargo annually, and will allow maritime traffic to bypass the busy waters around Singapore. The capacity is similar to that of Hong Kong’s port, the 8th busiest in the world, according to Saksayam.
A quicker, shorter track between Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand has been discussed for decades, along with the proposal for the Kra Canal to cut a canal between the two bodies of water, much like the Panama Canal. Whilst the Kra Canal project offers more potential benefits, the initial costs and potential environmental effects have led to the land bridge concept instead.
The minister says the land bridge plans are afoot to develop supporting infrastructure in the area, in order to promote the bridge and attract foreign investment. It’s understood there will be an automated container terminal to improve efficiency, creating a smoother journey between the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. The aim is to cut transit time to make it some of the lowest in the region, thereby improving the land bridge’s prospects of becoming the route of choice between the Indian and Pacific oceans.
The land bridge is in addition to the government’s Eastern Economic Corridor project, which PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has previously said will not be enough to fuel the economy. As part of the 20 year strategy, the PM said the government needed to invest in a mega-project. The road and rail land bridge will cover around 100 kilometres from the Andaman Sea to the Gulf of Thailand, linking sea ports on both sides. The government says such projects are key economic drivers for Thailand.
Both the land bridge, or canal, proposals would be of enormous benefit to Thailand but at the detriment of Singapore which has become the region’s shipping hub with its strategic location at the bottom of the Malay peninsula.
SOURCE: Bangkok Post