State shipping company to fly 'hub' flag
The government plans to set up a national shipping line company to promote Thailand as a regional logistics hub for maritime trade.
Government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said on Sunday that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha instructed state agencies to study the possibility and cost-effectiveness of setting a shipping line company.
The project would be in line with the Southern Land Bridge project that will enable cargo transport between the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea.
A working panel preparing for the setting up of the company, led by Deputy Transport Minister Atirat Ratanasate, is now in talks with the Port Authority of Thailand (PAT) to commission the PAT to conduct a feasibility study into the matter, Mr Thanakorn said.
An agreement is expected next month and the study is expected to be finished in May before being presented for cabinet in September next year, he said, adding the company will then be set up within a year.
On Dec 9, the panel also explored the potential for domestic marine shipping for the Gulf of Thailand in the provinces of Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon, Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Songkhla, with a workshop organised to discuss the matter, the spokesman said.
The panel also inspected the transport of goods in the Gulf of Thailand at Chuk Samet port in Chon Buri, Mr Thanakorn said. The panel also stressed the need for state agencies to cooperate with the private sector to develop port infrastructure through automation, and improve legal regulations to support domestic marine shipping.
As for efforts to promote international shipping, the panel instructed the Marine Department and the PAT to study the possibility of offering privileges to the private sector to persuade more operators to hoist their ships with Thai national flags, he said.
"The PM has a policy to boost Thailand's competitiveness in marine transport to scale down its dependence on foreign-owned ships, reduce transport costs and the trade deficit resulting from freight costs charged by foreign-owned ships for sending cargo," Mr Thanakorn said.
The PM also plans to support efforts to establish a national fleet of commercial vessels, and related industries, such as shipyards. Another aim is to improve the skills of commercial shipping personnel to push for Thailand to become a marine logistics hub, Mr Thanakorn said.