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Shipping Canal: Thai Kra Canal

Posted in Shipping Canal - 5 Jul 2021, 3:42 PM

Over the years, Thai Kra Canal goes by several other names, such as Kra Canal, Thai Canal, or Kra Isthmus Canal. Regardless of the name, it actually refers to the same thing: a proposal to construct a water canal connecting the Gulf of Thailand with the Andaman Sea. The name ‘Thai Kra’ is chosen to represent the Kra Isthmus, a land in southern Thailand where the canal would take place.

According to the plan, this canal will be built across the Kra Isthmus. Its construction is expected to be an alternative way for more effective transit through the oceanic area around Thailand and the neighboring regions. However, the plan comes with some major impacts that won’t only affect Thailand, but also some other countries around it.

The Proposal over the Years

While connecting Thailand to the Andaman Sea, Thai Kra Canal is envisaged to be a major transit canal for international trade, similar to Suez or Panama Canal. The canal will support the maritime transportation along the Silk Roadas it provides an alternative route through the Straits of Malacca and offers a shorter shipment transit involving Japan or China.

Long before the current name was proposed, the initial suggestion to build such a grand canal was noted back in 1677. However, due to impracticality and the lack of technology, the idea was simply rejected.

More than a century later, namely in 1793, the same idea was suggested by Maha Sura Singhana. This renewed proposal took a long time to reach its first step as it passed numerous deep and detailed stages of investigation, exploration, and other related considerations. One notable milestone of the idea didn’t come up until 1993 when a land bridge was built across the Kra Isthmus.

In recent years, the long-life plan to construct this canal has been officially taken by the government. Starting from the early 2020, a research committee is appointed by the Thai House of Representatives to study and consider the future plan of the canal construction.

Some Potential Impacts of Thai Kra Canal

Even before its official construction, the idea of Thai Kra Canal has sparked a number of expectations. Some of them are expressed by Thailand’s neighboring regions, especially Southeast Asian Countries.

Singapore, for instance, grows concerns regarding the canal’s impact on the country’s economic situation. This is due to the fact that the proposed canal would have a direct competition with other ports along the Strait of Malacca, including Singapore ports. If the canal is constructed, Singapore might lose approximately 30% of its regular shipping trade.

However, the case would be a little different for Malaysia. The Malaysian Business Times reported that the country will not feel a direct impact once the canal is completely built. Instead, its significance is estimated to come up around 15 years later.

Considering its significant impacts to other regions outside Thailand, the proposed construction of Thai Kra Canal is still going on until today. Recent updates expect that this grand project will move more earth than the combined construction of the Suez and Panama Canals. Although Thai government has set up a particular committee regarding this plan, only time will tell whether this canal is worth building in the future.

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