Union opposes port revamp

Union opposes port revamp

'Siam Gate' project sparks concerns

A bird's eye view shows Klong Toey Port hugging a bend of the Chao Phraya River as downtown Bangkok looms in the distance. Somchai Poomlard
A bird's eye view shows Klong Toey Port hugging a bend of the Chao Phraya River as downtown Bangkok looms in the distance. Somchai Poomlard

The Port Authority of Thailand (PAT) union has said that it is opposed to the state enterprise's plan to develop the Klong Toey Port area, saying the authority is ill-equipped to handle the venture.

Sakchai Kulsanan, president of the PAT union, on Sunday claimed the PAT management's proposal to establish a subsidiary firm to manage the assets to be included in the development could mark the first step toward the PAT's privatisation, which the union opposes.

The 490-billion development plan for the 2,300-rai port area could result in the dominance of the PAT by large businesses and overseas investors bent on making profits from commercialising the state land, he said.

Nothing is clear about where the investment capital will come from while the PAT was also not skilled in the management of commercial land, said Mr Sakchai

For this reason, the PAT would need to hire companies to manage the project over the 60-year concession period.

The land earmarked for the plan is divided into four zones. Zone A comprises land for offices and so-called "smart community" residences. Zone B will feature a "smart port" and centre for water transport logistics.

Zone C is for retail commerce, hotels and department stores. And Zone D has been designated for warehouses and a sports complex, said Somchai Hemthong, the PAT assistant director-general for asset management and business development.

Worawat Wassanont, deputy manager of the group formed to study the master plan, said last week that Klong Toey Port is in one of the few areas with the high potential for development.

The project will be called "Siam Gate" to reflect its goal of creating a global trading centre, said Mr Worawat. Companies will lease the land for 60 years and the project will generate an estimated 10 trillion baht during the concession period, of which around 1.4 trillion baht will be profit. The project will cost 490 billion baht over 20 years.

However, Mr Sakchai said the Klong Toey Port area is designed to be a site for water transport facilities and is not suitable for commercial ventures.

Mr Somchai said on Sunday the project will be operated through a subsidiary company. The final plan for the development and the proposal for forming the firm will be forwarded to the PAT board for approval by the end of the year before it is submitted to the Transport Ministry and the Finance Ministry early next year.

These endorsements will pave the way for a firm being set up and bidding for the land development, he said.

The PAT Act will also be amended to allow the state enterprise to make money from its assets.

Mr Somchai said the PAT will hold more than 25% but less than 50% of the shares in the subsidiary for flexibility of management.

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