Sunday, November 18, 2007

New Mekong River port for Thailand at Chiang Saen

New private port for Golden Triangle

Traders call for trade zone in Chiang Rai

THEERAWAT KHAMTHITA

Chiang Rai _ A business consortium plans to open a private commercial port on the banks of the Mekong river near the Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai's Chiang Saen district by the end of next month.

Lan Chang commercial port is built on 83 rai of land owned by MP World Trading, run by veteran politician Vatana Asavahame. The site is the former location of Ha Chiang Plaza shopping mall run by the same company.

The consortium has taken out a three-year lease and plans to buy the land in that period.

It made an initial investment of about 30 million baht for the first three years and after that the investment money in the next phases of development is expected to rise by as much as 600 million baht.

The consortium consists of Siam South China Logistics Co, which holds a 55% stake in the port, Kamol Insurance Co with a holding of 15%, Global Port Management Co with 15% and Suwannachinda Partnership Ltd with 15%.

The port project is in response to China's move to launch the Kunming and Jinghong industrial estates in southern China.

In addition, China also plans to build an agro-industrial estate on the Lao side of the Mekong river opposite Chiang Saen district.

The 10-billion-baht agri-industrial estate is a joint venture between Chinese investors and the Lao government.

It will cover about 20,000 rai with a five-star hotel, a casino, a hospital and a goods distribution centre planned. The estate is expected to open for business by next year.

Prathan Inseeyong, managing director of the Lan Chang port, said the port can serve six vessels of less than 500 tonnes gross.

A large crane for lifting goods of 150 tonnes has now been installed, while construction of a warehouse and parking areas for trucks is now underway.

The old Ha Chiang shopping mall will be refurbished and turned into an office building and an exhibition hall for Otop products.

Mr Prathan called on the government to develop and promote a special border economic zone in Chiang Rai to ensure continued economic growth in the province. He said many Chiang Rai governors were officials close to retirement. They would be in office for too short a time to maintain economic development in the province.

He was confident that China would choose to transport agricultural goods via Chiang Saen district.

Taking agricultural products by ship was more cost-effective than by road, given rising fuel costs, Mr Prathan said.

One ship can carry enough cargo to fill 10 trucks.

In addition, Thailand needs to prepare for the expansion of trade in the region when the free trade agreement between Thailand, China and Asean is concluded by 2010.

Pattana Sitthisombat, chairman of the Chiang Rai chamber of commerce, welcomed the first private-run commercial port in Chiang Saen.

Now there are only 12 warehouses permitted on a temporary basis on the banks of the Mekong river.

He urged Thai entrepreneurs to do more to explore investment possibilities under the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) cooperation deal.

Trade in Chiang Saen is worth about eight billion baht a year, while annual trade in Mae Sai and Chiang Khong districts is put at three billion baht each, he said.

Kesuda Sangkhakorn, who runs a major import-export company in Chiang Saen, said the new port will be an alternative to Chiang Saen port, making it easier to move shipments in the dry season when the Mekong is shallow.

Cargo vessels are often stranded on sand bars near the Golden Triangle before they manage to reach the port at Chiang Saen.

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