A new car, truck and passenger ferry service between Chon Buri and Songkhla will start soon, which could later include a stop in Prachuap Khiri Khan, Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob has said.
He was speaking after a recent meeting to discuss the launch of the new ferry service which has yet to be unveiled, though some reports suggest it could start as soon as next month.
Seahorse Ferries Co will operate the service and plans to conduct a test run which is expected to take place by the end of this month, Mr Saksayam said.
The Blue Dolphin, a used three-decker ship bought for 200 million baht from Japan, passed a safety inspection by the Marine Department on March 12, while its crew have been trained and are ready to serve on it, the minister added.
At 7,000 tonnes and 136.6 metres in length, the 26-year-old ferry is capable of transporting up to 586 passengers, 80 cargo trucks and 20 cars at a maximum speed of 17 knots.
When the ferry service has achieved a 60% passenger load factor, a second ferry will be introduced, the minister said. Initially, the service will run between Chon Buri and Songkhla, with Prachuap Khiri Khan possibly being added to the route later, he said.
It is estimated the trip between Chon Buri and Songkhla will take 20 hours, he said, which is a four-hour saving on the 24 hours it takes to travel by land.
The minister said it is hoped the service will not only help in efforts to reduce air pollution, including the hazardous PM2.5 ultra fine dust particles, emitted by heavy lorries in land cargo transport, but also transport costs, he said.
The fare rates for cars and trucks were still being calculated and would probably be revealed after the test run.
The route also will benefit the development of the government's Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and the Southern Economic Corridor (SEC), he said.
Earlier, the Marine Department said the service would boost the economy and would be good for the environment.