Friday, December 23, 2016

ECRL project can alter trade routes

KUANTAN: Singapore can be “bypassed” as new links, such as the ambitious East Coast Rail Line (ECRL) project, can alter regional trade routes.

A Singapore Straits Times report yesterday, quoting officials, stated that the ECRL could alter regional trade routes which currently ply between the Strait of Malacca and South China Sea via Singapore.

When completed, the ECRL would become a major land bridge for trade in and out of Asia, the report stated.

“Cost issues aside, this new network will create new alternative routes to boost trade for Asean, with Malaysia as the base; and why this has to be taken seriously is because the Chinese have a direct interest in the (Kuantan) port and the rail link,” G. Durairaj, managing director of maritime and logistics consultancy PortsWorld, was quoted as saying.

The report stated that if everything came together as planned, the new links could bypass Singapore and offer exporters new options to reach markets in North Asia.

Exports from North Asia could also bypass looping around Singa­pore to get to the busy Strait of Malacca, proponents of the project argue.

The report stated that the port owners, Malaysia’s construction powerhouse IJM and China’s Beibu Gulf Port Group, were spending more than RM1.2bil to reclaim 40ha of land, with Malaysia pouring RM1.08bil to complete a 4km breakwater to protect the harbour.

The massive port expansion will feature a 1km-long berthing complex that will feed industries in nearby industrial zones earmarked specially for Chinese manufacturing concerns.

The port, which began operations in 1984, is central to the ECRL, which will depend on Chinese train technology and funding.

The officials said the upgrading of Kuantan Port, which will be completed by mid-2018, was only one part of what is shaping up to be Malaysia’s most expensive infrastructure under­taking.

The proposed 620km electrified railway line will snake its way from Tumpat, near Malaysia’s north-eastern border with Thai­land, down the coast to Kuantan Port, before cutting through the mountainous central region to Port Klang, Malaysia’s biggest port.

The report also stated that China has proposed to build a new port in Malacca, also on the west coast.

*Taken from The Star Online

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