Thailand’s Kra Isthmus Land Bridge promises economic boom for Penang Port

Photo courtesy of Free Malaysia Today

Thailand is eyeing a colossal infrastructure project, a 90-kilometre land bridge across the Kra Isthmus, set to revolutionise maritime trade and shower economic benefits on ports in northern Peninsular Malaysia.

Penang Port Sdn Bhd CEO V Sasedharan envisions this ambitious project as a potential game-changer, akin to the impact the Suez Canal had on Egyptian waterway-adjacent ports. The proposed land bridge, designed to link the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea via a comprehensive rail and road network, promises to significantly slash shipping times, offering a two-to-three-day reduction in the voyage around Peninsular Malaysia.

Amidst the hunt for partners to kickstart this monumental endeavour, estimated to cost a whopping US$28.5 billion (approximately 982 billion baht), Sasedharan foresees Penang emerging as a crucial trans-shipment hub in the northern Melaka Straits. He draws parallels with ports near the Suez Canal, facilitating seamless cargo transfers between the Mediterranean and Red Seas.

“The spillover from Kra would do Penang good. This would be much like ports near the Suez Canal which facilitate trans-shipment between the Mediterranean and Red Seas.”

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Highlighting Penang’s existing ties with southern Thailand, the Penang Port CEO notes that 30% of the Port’s business originates from the region, predominantly dealing with exports like rubberwood, furniture, and tyres. The preference for Penang over Songkhla’s more limited capacity is evident, with the latter’s shallower depth of 6 to 7 metres.

Revealing that the Malaysian government had long recognised the potential of southern Thailand’s thriving manufacturing industries, Sasedharan recalls a 2017 proposal by Finance Minister Johari Ghani for a 260-kilometre land bridge from Penang to Songkhla, aiming to cut a five-day voyage around Peninsular Malaysia, reported Free Malaysia Today.

Undeterred by challenges, Sasedharan projects Penang Port to maintain its regional supremacy, targeting a staggering 1.5 million 20ft containers (TEU) in the current year. He proudly cites the port’s stellar performance in 2023, where it moved 1.44 million containers, marking an impressive 11% increase from 2022.

In a bid to amplify its influence, Penang Port actively courts more players in South Asia, aiming to stimulate additional trans-shipment activities for containers navigating the waters between the Bay of Bengal and the Far East.

Eastern Thailand NewsEconomy NewsThailand News

Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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