Thailand is looking to construct a land passageway that would connect the Indian and Pacific Oceans, bypassing one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
The Strait of Malacca, a narrow sea lane between Malaysia and Singapore, is currently 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 in an interview last week. “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 100-kilometer “land bridge” would replace an existing proposal to dredge a canal through the isthmus. That would cause too much destruction to the environment, he said.
The idea for a canal that would traverse the nation’s narrowest point and trim the travel distance by 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) has been put forward and dismissed several times over the past few decades.
The government has approved a 75 million baht ($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.