Thai firm to run Lao port on Mekong

Thai firm to run Lao port on Mekong

Chiang Rai: Laos is poised to launch a new port checkpoint in the Mekong River early next year to handle regional traffic while a Thai firm has won a contract to develop and operate the port for a period of 40 years.

The facility, known as Ban Mom port, is in Ton Pheung, Bokeo province, about 17km north of Chiang Rai's Chiang Saen district. The launch is scheduled for January next year.

Pakaimas Viera, vice president of the Chiang Rai chamber of commerce, said the port, designed to service cargo vessels travelling along the Mekong River, is being eyed for expansion into an agricultural hub linking Thailand and the south of China.

She was commenting after a visit to the province by a commerce and industry delegation from Bokeo. The Lao delegation, which met Pornthep Inthachai, president of Chiang Mai's chamber of commerce, also urged the Thai business community to seek business opportunities in Bokeo.

According to a border source, the port will serve mainly as a checkpoint for cargo ships travelling north to China with fees of US$40 (1,300 baht) for 100-tonne ships and $50 for larger ships.

"The vessels will be examined to see if they are registered properly and have licences, if the crew members are legally employed and if the cargo are imported legally," said the source. The vessels travelling downstream may stop at Xiengkok port.

The Ban Mom port development scheme is in line with an agreement between four nations -- Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and China -- on common navigation rules along the Mekong.

The rules cover six areas: safe navigation, water level management for cruising, navigation administration, procedures on accident investigation, search and rescue, and vessel monitoring processes.

The agreement, which was signed in 2000, is to promote trade and tourism in the region with each country expected to push along commercial navigation by member countries with 14 ports designated along the route.

Of those ports, two are in Chiang Saen and Chiang Khong districts of Chiang Rai, six are in Laos, four in China and two others in Myanmar.

According to the source, the new port checkpoint is designed to meet international standards and will boost efforts to combat smuggling of contraband goods into China.

Traffic in the Mekong is likely to see a significant increase when the China-Thailand free-trade agreement covering 703 items including EVs and agricultural products comes into effect early next year.

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