By Salinee Prap
Prayut gave the instruction while on an inspection visit to the project site during his official trip to Phuket on Monday. He was briefed on the problems of the deep seaport and observed the on-going enhancement of the facilities.
Prayut was welcomed by Teeranun Srihong, the executive director of Phuket Deep Seaport Co Ltd which won the concession to operate the port.
The port was built by the Harbour Department in 1988 on a 105-rai plot belonging to the Treasury Department, which awarded a 30-year concession to the Phuket Deep Seaport Co Ltd. The harbour front was initially 360 metres wide with a 1.30-kilometre waterway leading from the open sea.
Since the Phuket Deep Seaport won the contract on April 30 last year, it has been expanding the port’s capacity by building a large carpark, a duty free shop and other shops and expanding the quay by an 60 additional metres as well as enhancing the depth of the waterway to allow cruise ships to dock at the port.
Teeranun told Prayut that the construction works were 24 per cent complete though about 40 per cent behind schedule due to the monsoon winds.
Teeranun said his firm wanted to seek government help to urgently enlarge the waterway and to expand the area for large cruise ships to turn and dock and well as building a wave barrier from Koh Tapao Yai to the port so that large cruise ships could dock at the port directly.
Teeranun said a lot of cruise ship firms wanted to extend their routes to Phuket but its deep seaport’s waterway is not deep enough the ships to dock. Currently, cruise ships have to anchor in the sea and use tenders to transport passengers to Phuket, making it inconvenient to tourists who had to wait around 45 minutes for their turn. Besides, transferring tourists to and from small boats could result in accidents, Teeranun added.
Teeranun added that to turn Phuket deep seaport into a homeport from cruise ships, the government must provide facilities for tourists to quickly clear customs and immigrations and provide cheap and reasonably priced transportation to tourist destinations on the island.
Teeranun said there are about 38 cruise ship companies in Asia operating some 80 ships, making about 7,200 trips to various locations in Asia per year, including 200 trips to Phuket. He noted that Bali in Indonesia and Long Bay in Vietnam are Phuket’s main rivals.