A budget has been approved to study a highway and rail passageway plan that would connect two oceans to bypass the congested Strait of Malacca off Malaysia and Singapore.
The 100km ‘land bridge’ between two seaports would replace previous plans for a canal, and would cut shipping time by over two days.
A land passageway would connect the Indian and Pacific Oceans, bypassing one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. That is the Strait of Malacca, a narrow sea lane along Peninsular Malaysia’s southwest coast and extending east past Singapore which is the shortest sea route linking the Asia-Pacific region with India and the Middle East. About a quarter of the world’s traded goods pass through it each year.
“The Strait has become quite congested,” Transport Minister Saksiam Chidchob said. “Using an alternative route through Thailand would cut shipping time by more than two days, which is very valuable for businesses.” Thailand plans to build two deep seaports on either side of the country’s southern coasts, and link them via highway and rail, according to Saksiam.
The 100km “land bridge” would replace an existing proposal to dredge a canal through the Kra isthmus. That would cause too much destruction to the environment, he said. The Kra Isthmus is the narrowest part of the Malay Peninsula. The western part of the isthmus belongs to Ranong Province and the eastern part to Chumphon Province, both in Southern Thailand.
The idea for a canal that would traverse the nation’s narrowest point and trim the travel distance by 1,200km (745 miles) has been put forward and dismissed several times over the past few decades.
The government has approved a 75 million baht (US$2.4 million) budget for a study to examine the construction of two seaports, and another 90 million baht to examine highways and rails linking them, according to Saksiam.
Last year, a report found that piracy has surged along the Strait of Malacca with incidents along the shipping route rising from eight in 2018 to 30 in 2019.