Discussions involving the Southern Land Bridge project intended to facilitate cargo transport between the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea were recently held during a public forum in Chumphon province.
The forum was conducted by the Office of Transport under the Ministry of Transport and the Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP) as they sought input on the Southern Economic Corridor (SEC) project.
Sector representatives at the forum were told by an OTP official of the project’s importance, particularly as it related to economic development between provinces along the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea.
According to the OTP official, trade delivery between Thailand and nations in the Indian Ocean required a long detour through the Malacca Strait.
Studies conducted in 2018 found some 85,000 cargo ships passing the strait annually, with that figure expected to reach 128,000 within a decade. This would exceed the strait’s estimated annual capacity of 122,000, leading to congestion and delays, according to the official.
The OTP official said the land bridge could address both dilemmas, as transport operators would be able to travel directly from the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea through a road running across Chumphon and Ranong. Two small deep water ports would also be constructed to run on automated systems, with one located in Chumphon and the other off the coast of Ranong.
The Chumphon port would deliver and receive goods to and from East Asian nations such as China, Japan and South Korea, as well as the United States and Australia. The Ranong port would meanwhile facilitate goods between the Andaman Sea and members of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), including Myanmar, India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
The Southern Land Bridge project is currently undergoing a feasibility study by the OTP to determine the viability of further integrating rail, land and pipeline transportation to connect the two ports.
The OTP will also study the SEC’s economic, financial, engineering and social suitability and assess the environment impact along with other factors in line with the Public-Private Partnership Act of 2019.
The study is expected to conclude in 2023, with more forums to be held on the project. (NNT)