Yan­gon to de­velop river trans­port ex­press sys­tem

The Myanmar Times - - Business - Ayenyein­win@mm­times.com AYE NYEIN WIN

THE Yan­gon Re­gion govern­ment is plan­ning to build a river ex­press sys­tem for pas­sen­gers – part of fun­da­men­tal trans­port re­forms that govern­ment of­fi­cials hope will bring a new wave of in­dus­trial goods and com­muters onto the coun­try’s wa­ter­ways.

Myan­mar is unique in South­east Asia in boast­ing wa­ter­ways – pri­mar­ily the Aye­yarwady and Chind­win rivers – that con­nect its main cities, ac­cord­ing to the Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank. But a lack of in­fra­struc­ture and in­vest­ment has left this trans­port re­source sorely un­der­utilised.

The Yan­gon Re­gion govern­ment is hop­ing to make bet­ter use of the city’s wa­ter­ways to help re­duce trans­porta­tion costs and traf­fic jams, chief min­is­ter U Phyo Min Thein said on July 22.

“The govern­ment is go­ing to up­grade wa­ter trans­porta­tion for com­muters and for trans­port­ing goods,” he said.

U Maung Aung from the Yan­gon Re­gion govern­ment’s Pub­lic Trans­port Author­ity Group said au­thor­i­ties would is­sue a ten­der for com­pa­nies to build and op­er­ate an ex­press river trans­port sys­tem for com­muters.

The ex­press sys­tem will in­clude jet­ties at des­ti­na­tions in­clud­ing Hlaing Thar­yar, Shwe Pyi Thar and Ky­ee­myindaing town­ships, he told The Myan­mar Times.

The re­gional govern­ment will de­cide on where to lo­cate the jet­ties and the win­ning com­pany or com­pa­nies will have to build them, he said, adding that he hoped to see the ex­press sys­tem run­ning in Oc­to­ber.

State-owned In­land Wa­ter Trans­port – which op­er­ates un­der the Min­istry of Trans­port and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions – will be in charge of is­su­ing a li­cence to op­er­ate the ex­press sys­tem, and mak­ing sure safety reg­u­la­tions are met, he added.

Re­form­ing In­land Wa­ter Trans­port is also a key part of a wider ef­fort to up­date the coun­try’s water­way sys­tem. The state-owned en­ter­prise (SOE) has long held a mo­nop­oly on water­way trans­port, which in ear­lier years was an im­port source of move­ment for pas­sen­gers and freight.

But a surge in car and truck own­er­ship on the back of looser im­port re­stric­tions has eaten into In­land Wa­ter Tran­port’s mar­ket share, an ADB re­port pub­lished last week said. The SOE saw freight turnover drop 65 per­cent be­tween 2011 and 2015, and pas­sen­ger num­bers fell 83pc, the re­port said.

A lack of fresh in­vest­ment mean­while has left the en­ter­prise with out­dated ships, jet­ties and ma­chin­ery. In­land Wa­ter Trans­port is los­ing about K400 mil­lion a month, ac­cord­ing to a sep­a­rate re­port sent to the new govern­ment.

In­land Wa­ter Trans­port is one of sev­eral state-owned en­ter­prises that the new govern­ment will privi­tise or cor­po­ra­tise, deputy min­is­ter U Maung Maung Win told The Myan­mar Times in May.

U Zaw Win, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of In­land Wa­ter Trans­port, told The Myan­mar Times on July 22 that privi­ti­sa­tion was the ul­ti­mate aim, but that this would take some two or three years.

The ADB trans­port re­port said the SOE can “re­bound from its very de­graded sit­u­a­tion”, but that this will re­quire pub­lic fi­nan­cial sup­port for at least two more years.

The Min­istry of Plan­ning and Fi­nance will need to re­struc­ture In­land Wa­ter Trans­port’s fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions, and the Min­istry of Trans­port and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions will need to lay-off or re­de­ploy the firm’s staff, the re­port added.

Myan­mar’s Road and In­land Wa­ter Trans­port Law, which was de­signed for a com­mand econ­omy and lim­its pri­vate com­pe­ti­tion in trans­port ser­vices, should be re­vised, the ADB said.

U Zaw Win is well aware of the short­falls in the sys­tem. The ships are old, and un­able to run 24 hours a day, while ma­chin­ery and jet­ties need up­grad­ing, he said.

“Our weak point is that we carry goods and pas­sen­gers to­gether [on the same ship],” he said, adding that In­land Wa­ter Trans­port plans to sep­a­rate the two in the fu­ture.

An­other new pol­icy will see the SOE run fer­ries to carry ship­ping con­tain­ers from jetty to jetty, he said.

This pol­icy is be­ing car­ried out as part of a Ja­pan In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Agency project in co­op­er­a­tion with a pri­vate ma­rine ser­vices com­pany, and there have been suc­cess­ful tests of ship­ping con­tain­ers be­tween Yan­gon and Man­dalay, he added.

If the wa­ter­ways can take more con­tainer trans­port this could help al­le­vi­ate traf­fic in down­town Yan­gon, where heavy trucks ship con­tain­ers in and out of the city through­out the day, U Zaw Win said.

He added that the ADB also sup­ports the project, and hopes the de­vel­op­ment bank would in­vest.

Win­fried Wick­lein, the ADB’s coun­try di­rec­tor for Myan­mar, said the bank had not de­cided whether it would pro­vide lend­ing as­sis­tance for river trans­port. This will be de­cided through dis­cus­sion with the govern­ment on ADB’s pro­posed coun­try part­ner­ship strat­egy for 2017-2021, he said. – Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by

Steve Gil­more

‘The ships are old ... Our weak point is that we carry goods and pas­sen­gers to­gether [on the same ship].’

U Zaw Win In­land Wa­ter Trans­port

Photo: Zarni Phyo

A pas­sen­ger boat crosses Yan­gon River to Dala town­ship.

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