Bangkok Port saga never ends

Construction News

Bangkok Port saga never ends

Governments have tried to move Bangkok Port in Klong Toey to Laem Chabang deep-sea port in Chon Buri province many times

Bangkok Post Editorial

Governments have tried to move Bangkok Port in Klong Toey to Laem Chabang deep-sea port in Chon Buri province many times.

The relocation follows an urban development trend in which commercial ports are located outside capital cities. However, most of these attempts to move logistic operations which remain at Klong Toey to Chon Buri have failed.

The latest attempt by the Srettha government does not seem to have made any real advance. Early this month, PM Srettha Thavisin made a bold announcement about the government’s vision to move the rest of the port facility to Chon Buri, starting with facilities on a 32-rai plot facing the Chao Phraya River, which will be turned into a public space, commercial zones and a new marina for tourism cruises.

Apart from land development, politicians like PM Srettha and Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt also share the belief that relocating Klong Toey Port can solve the city’s PM2.5 air pollution and floods.

Just a week later, PM Srettha changed his tone. He said that “only parts” of the port’s operations will be moved to Laem Chabang.

The big question is, which part?

Most of Klong Toey Port’s logistics were moved to Laem Chabang in Chon Buri several years ago. Some 10 million containers are regularly shipped to the Laem Chabang facility; by contrast just one million containers still use Bangkok Port in Klong Toey.

The Port Authority of Thailand (PAT) insisted that keeping some operations there is vital for local exporters and businesses. The agency under the Transport Ministry has an ambitious plan to modernise remaining operations into a modern major transport hub, alongside the existing port structure. The hub will handle goods delivered along the Chao Phraya River from provinces further north.

The PAT is also planning to develop some of the 2,300-rai facility into smart community residences and a commercial zone that includes retail shops, hotels, department stores, warehouses and a sports complex.

To reduce air pollution and traffic congestion in the area, the PAT also announced the plan to move some truck depots to Ayutthaya, to divert lorries from entering the inner city. The PAT also plans to have a 2-kilometre expressway built to re-route lorries through Bang Na.

It seems the politicians and the PAT are not on the same page. The debate over the future of Klong Toey Port has been going for years without any signs of a conclusion.

The bigger question is, who stands to gain the most benefit from the relocation?

Is it Bangkok residents, who stand to get a large public park along the river?

Or will it be commercial land developers, as in the case of the Makkasan Railway Depot?

What will be future of Klong Toey’s communities? Will they be evicted so the city can get a new mixed-use and marina?

Lawmakers or even a neutral think-tank like the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council should launch a study to provide answers as to how the 2,300-rai land plot should be developed.

Meanwhile, the PAT must remember that the site is public property and that it might be time for the agency to hand over some land for public space.

Even if the debate continues for the next several years or even another decade, the BMA and PAT must work harder to reduce air pollution by forcing lorries and operators to comply with air pollution standards.