The Port Authority of Thailand (PAT) will conduct a feasibility study into setting up a "National Maritime Navigation Line", Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said on Saturday.
The shipping line, which would be created as an affiliate of the PAT, would boost infrastructure deployment for the government's southern land bridge and the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) schemes until work is completed and the projects are up and running in 2027 and 2025 respectively, he said.
The proposed state-owned maritime navigation line will also help Thai exporters and importers to rely less on foreign companies for freight transport services, he said.
With the freight transport line in place, Thai exporters and importers will find operating their businesses more convenient, according to Mr Saksayam.
It is unclear how much money the government is planning to invest and how such a big-spending item would rank against other budget plans.
Graduates from the Merchant Marine Training Centre, run by the Marine Department, will also have an opportunity to work on ships operated by the new company, he said.
"I believe the creation of the national maritime navigation line will happen during the tenure of the government led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha for sure," he said.
A Thai Maritime Navigation Co was established in 1940 under the Civil Code but was dissolved by cabinet resolution in 2011 after failing to make a profit.
According to the Marine Department, about 90% of all goods transported from one country to another are sent by sea, due to its low cost and greater capacity than airlines.
Trade movements to and from Thailand now rely heavily on foreign freight transport lines as existing Thai fleets account for only 9% of all cargo ships in service, according to the department.
A recent review of maritime transport by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad), found the combined transport capacity of Thai fleets of cargo ships ranks sixth in Asean after Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
A 2019 analysis of the volume of goods transport shipping in the next 20 years, meanwhile, has forecast a huge expansion of the shipping volume to up to 536 million tonnes in 2039.
In 2019, the analysis showed, Singapore was in the lead with 133.54 million deadweight tonnages (DWT) in maritime goods transport capacity, followed by Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand, which had at that time 24.1 million DWT, 10.34 million DWT, 8.58 million DWT and 6 million DWT respectively.
These figures demonstrate Thailand's lesser ability to compete with other nations in the same region when it comes to ocean freight transport, said the analysis.
According to Asean's Liner Shipping Connectivity Index, Thailand still has the lowest levels of connectivity when compared to Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.