By SASITHORN ONGDEE
“Now we are ready to invest in the project, and a number of local and foreign firms have expressed interest in joining us,” said Peerapong Prasopsukcharoen, development and planning manager for the group’s Siam Eastern Industrial Park Co, who is responsible for the project.
He said the project would boost not only the national tourism sector but also rural economies. The multiplier economic effect was expected to be at least Bt16.5 billion, creating jobs valued at Bt1.8 billion a year, according to a study by the company.
The project was originally proposed by the civilian government of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra in 2012. It was revived last year by the junta’s transport minister, Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong, now a deputy prime minister.
Siam Eastern Logistics Terminal Co, one of the SEP Group’s companies, was proposed as a private developer of the project. In the middle of last year, Prajin instructed the Marine Department to speed up a feasibility study on the project, and complete it in 12-13 months instead of the normal time frame of 18 months. He argued that the study should not take long, as one had already been conducted in 2012.
According to Peerapong, the SEP Group led by Anantachai Kunanantakul, a real-estate tycoon in Samut Prakan province, has revised the ferry project’s investment plan, putting the estimate at around Bt15 billion. Of that, about Bt9 billion would be for building of three ports in Bang Pu, Pattaya and Pran Buri, and the remainder for four mid-sized catamaran-style ferries.
The Pattaya-Pran Buri ferry service would shorten the distance between those two locations to 109 kilometres from 380km and cut the travel time to 1.5 hours from 4.5 hours, he said.
Under the revised proposal, Peerapong said the group had focused more on safety and convenience, using mid-sized catamaran ferries of 120 deadweight tons. Each would have capacity to carry up to 400 passengers, 30 cars, 12 motorcycles, and shipments not exceeding 40 tonnes. At full load, the ferry would have a 2.1-metre draft.
He said there would be 16 daily trips for the Pattaya-Pran Buri route and 20 for the Pran Buri-Bang Pu-Pattaya route.
“The ferry fare would be about Bt1,000 each per trip for passengers and Bt3,000 for a car for the Pattaya-Pran Buri route,” said Peerapong, adding that the group expected a total of 2.8 million passengers a year.
He said the ferry service would be operated by a newly established firm, Siam Eastern Logistics Co, while the three ports would be run by Siam Eastern Logistics Terminal Co.
The port to be constructed in Bang Pu, Samut Prakan, would be located in the group’s K-City complex, he said. The Pattaya port would be located in Ban Amphur, and Pran Buri’s in Pak Nam.
The group proposed that it operate the ferry service for 30 years, after which all three ports would be transferred to the state.