A 120km link between Peninsula Malaysia and Sumatra Island, Indonesia crossing one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes is set to be developed according to a Malaysian official.
Marcus Hand | Sep 12, 2022
The link would connect Telok Gong in Masjid Tanah, Melaka, with Dumai in Sumatrae either via a bridge or a tunnel, Malaysian news agency Bernama reported.
Melaka Investment, Industry, Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Committee chairman Ab Rauf Yusoh said the proposed development, which would involve the construction of a tunnel or bridge, taking some 20 years to complete.
“The proposal on the project has been submitted by the private sector and both countries have in principle agreed to a detailed study on the matter,” he said.
“On the part of the state government, we have brought all government agencies to visit the area where the proposed new route will be built yesterday,” he told reporters after an interview on a Melaka radio station last Thursday.
He said it would be built using the “One belt, one road” concept, although there was no mention of Chinese involvement in the project.
Ab Rauf said the link would have a major impact on the economic development of both Malaysia and Indonesia. Social media posts, however, questioned where the traffic would come from for such a link.
The proposed link would cross one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and any bridge would need to allow sufficient air draught for some the world’s largest vessels both VLCCs and ultra-large containerships to pass. The Malacca Strait is the main shipping route linking Asia to Europe and the Middle East and sees around 100,000 vessels transits annually.
It is not the first time that link between Peninsula Malaysia and Sumatra, Indonesia has been proposed. In 2013 a 48-km bridge was reported to be at the feasibility study stage and with China’s Exim Bank lined up to fund up to 85% of the estimated $14bn project.
The concept of a bridge over the Malacca Strait was first mooted in 1996 by then Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad when he met Indonesia’s President Suharto in Kuala Lumpur, but dropped from the radar with the onset of the Asian economic crisis a year later.
The project to build a bridge across the Straits of Malacca is reminiscent of another grand Southeast Asia infrastructure plan – the Kra Canal – cutting across the Isthmus of Kra in southern Thailand allowing ships sailing to and from Northeast Asia to bypass the Malacca and Singapore Straits.
It last resurfaced in 2015 with the reported signing of an MoU between Thailand and China, with the governments of both countries later denying involvement. The Kra Canal has been on the drawing board for nearly 400 years and has been periodically revived, although never reaching the stage of starting construction.
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