Myanmar’s coastal line is 1,385 miles long with nine ports. Yangon Port is the major one that handles more than 90 per cent of the international maritime trade. In the Thilawa port area, two international standard multi-purpose terminals were constructed.
Yangon Port handled more than 6 million tonnes of goods after it was upgraded this year to handle huge vessels. This was a quick achievement after the port and navigation were upgraded.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Transport and Communications has planned to deepen the stretch of Ayeyarwady River flowing from north and south of the country to at least 3 metres and the Chindwin River to at least 2 metres. This would allow 500-tonne vessels to navigate the rivers all year round. The Ayeyarwady, the country’s longest river, is 1,394 km long flowing between Yangon and Bamo, while the Chindwin River is more than 700 km long.
The Directorate of Water Resources and Improvement of River Systems has completed 13 water route improvement projects and 23 projects to prevent coastal erosion by constructing retaining walls and dykes measuring some 20,905 feet in the 2017-2018 fiscal year (FY).
A container barge was constructed with the assistance of Japan International Cooperation Agency last year. The aim is to transport goods along the Ayeyarwady River between Yangon and Mandalay, as well as to transport containers between Thilawa Port and Shwe Pyit Tha Shwe Me (Black Gold) port. These efforts are aimed at providing cost-efficient means to economic development, as well as help ease road congestion.
However, large investments will be needed to boost the navigability of our rivers, as water transport is the most competitive transport solution.
According to the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the commodity flow has decreased yearly, as the waterways of both rivers are unstable. Vessels normally face transport problems, as water levels vary depending on the season.
According to a survey conducted in the 1992-1993 FY, 33 million people used both rivers for transport. The number has decreased to 11 million in the 2015-2016 FY. The commodity flow and trading volume along the rivers have declined from 2.6 million tonnes in 1992-1993 to 1.38 million tonnes last FY.
Closing the transport infrastructure gap is a key focus area of the National Transport Master Plan, of which the new inland ports are important parts.
The requirements for modernizing water transport are huge, and they can be fulfilled only through the PPP (public-private partnership) system.