A ferry service could soon link Chon Buri with Koh Samui, under a deal being negotiated between the Transport Ministry and a private operator.
Marine Department chief Chula Sukmanop said yesterday that Siam Eastern Logistics Terminals Co had expressed interest in operating the route. He was speaking after a meeting with Transport Minister Prajin Juntong which touched on ferry operations in the Gulf of Thailand.
Mr Chula said the government and the firm were deciding whether a new ferry pier would be set up in Chuk Samet harbour in Chon Buri's Sattahip district or Si Racha harbour. The Marine Department will also examine what facilities would be required to service the operation. Chuk Samet harbour's passenger terminal must be expanded if it is chosen.
"The inspection is expected to be completed by the middle of this month, while Siam Eastern will study the financial viability of different routes and schedules," Mr Chula said. If the deal goes ahead, services could be operating by early next year, he added. Each ferry would be able to accommodate up to 400 people and 100 vehicles at a time, the company said.
Travelling by the existing bus-and-ferry route between Chon Buri and Koh Samui takes upwards of 10 hours. The company claims its ferries will be able to make the same journey in half that time.
Mr Chula also commented on a project to renovate Bangkok's Pin Klao pier, saying Chao Phraya Express Boat Co had been commissioned to oversee it. The pier, now closed for maintenance, would be ready to resume normal operations next month.
The refurbished pier will have new separate entry and exit points for express and tourist boat passengers, waiting areas and monitors showing boat locations and schedules. A new e-ticketing system will also be launched.
Sathon and Nonthaburi piers will undergo similar renovations later this year, with another seven piers slated for next year, Mr Chula added.