Myanmar moves to become maritime trade hub in Southeast Asia

By: Madeleine Keck - Posted on: July 10, 2017 | Business

In an effort to establish its place in the global economy, Myanmar will focus on its shipping and port potential

Ships dock at the port in Yangon, Myanmar, 04 July 2016. Photo: EPA/Nyein Chan Naing

Myanmar envisions a future in which its sea and river ports are driving domestic economic growth and placing the country at the centre of trade in Asia, transport authorities announced at the 15th Asean Ports and Shipping Conference on Friday.

Leveraging its geographic position between the regional powers China and India, Myanmar plans to expand its ports and shipping industry to become a leading hub for maritime commerce and a crucial part of the regional economic infrastructure.

Kyaw Myo, Myanmar’s deputy minister for transport and communications, said a crucial element of Myanmar’s economic development depended on establishing an efficient and integrated transport system centred around ports.

“Myanmar’s transport infrastructure has reached the low end of the Asian benchmark due to our poorly targeted investment for many years,” Kyaw Myo said, according to The Nation. “Now it is time to improve our transport infrastructure effectively and systematically with regional and international cooperation.”

The government also hosted consultations on Saturday to discuss its National Transport Master Plan, which aims to advance Myanmar’s economy in part by improving cargo transport routes along the country’s rivers. Officials discussed the creation of six new inland water port terminals, four on the Ayeyarwaddy River and two on the Chindwin River.

Transport and Communications Minister U Thant Sin Maung, who is leading the consultations, said the ports would bring both immediate and long-term benefits.

“These ports are a critical part of our national plan to transform Myanmar’s economy. Immediately, they will enhance regional development and create jobs, while in the long-term they will increase economic growth by facilitating the transport of goods and people within the country” he said, according to Mizzima News.

Funding for the new ports is expected to be boosted by Myanmar’s new Investment Law, which is expected to bring a long-awaited boost in confidence to foreign investors who are anxious to get a foothold in the emerging economy but weary of the lack of legal protection.

Myanmar currently has nine ports that mostly facilitate sea trade. However, 95% of maritime exports and imports some through the Yangon Port, which consists of the Yangon inner harbour terminals and outer Thilawa Port.

Myo Nyein Aye, deputy general manager of Myanmar Port Authority, told The Nation that maritime transport was already responsible for more than 85% of the nation’s trade, and that it was only a matter of time before the country became a regional conduit for commerce.

“Regional connectivity is key to our growth, as multinational companies seek new markets throughout the region,” he said. “We believe we will become a new hub of Southeast Asia thanks to our strategic location connecting regional economic corridors.”