Maritime Silk Road to include Thai Canal?

Monday, 9 February 2015 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  The Thai Canal, also known as Kra Canal, that would cut through southern Thailand to enable improved transportation in the region, could be part of the new ‘Maritime Silk Road’ in the south of Thailand. The concept was presented to local media by Pakdee Tanapura, Deputy Director of the economic section at Thai-Chinese Cultural and Economic Association and a member the National Committee for the Study of the Kra Canal Project. Results of a pre-feasibility study on the canal, conducted by the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing and the National Committee for the Study, show that the 26-metre-deep and less-than-100-kilometre-long waterway would cost about $ 20 billion. The canal would save up to 48 hours to shipping companies transiting routes between Asia and Europe. In addition, it would offer a route that would circumvent the Malacca Strait that is expected to become over-congested in the following ten years leading to slowdowns in shipping. “By 2025, there will be about 140,000 vessels and ocean freighters passing through the strait but it can only accommodate about 122,000 ships,” Pakdee is quoted as saying by the Thai daily The Nation. According to Pakdee, the optimal route is the ‘5A’ line between Songkhla and Satun as it would be the shortest one, and because it is situated right on the shipping lane. Potential investors in the development of the Canal could be from China, which has recently signed up to help build a new pan-Thai railroad, Pakdee said. The next step for the Kra Study Committee is a comprehensive feasibility study that would take one year to complete before being presented to the government. However, previous governments have been reluctant to take up the project due to its financial and political connotations, as it could be interpreted as ‘breaking up of the country’, Pakdee added. The Chinese president Xi Jinping introduced the ‘Belt and Road’ initiatives to build a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in 2013, in an attempt to revive the historic trade routes between China and other Asian nations.