Chaophaya Terminal International Co (CTIC), which has run the Phuket Deep Sea Port since it opened in 1987, held an initial public hearing on Wednesday into its plans to expand facilities to double the number of cruise ship passengers the port can handle.
Some 100 people, including experts in marine and environmental matters, attended the meeting at the Katina hotel on Sakdidet Rd.
The port, which belongs to the state Treasury Department, has 360 metres of quay, originally designed for handling cargo ships. Current cargo throughput is about 130,000 tons a year, with two or three merchant ships arriving each week.
Now, however, the port – the island’s only facility for mooring large vessels – is also attracting one or two cruise ships a week. Around 150,000 cruise passengers disembarked there in the past year. The proposed expansion would allow a doubling of that number, to 300,000 a year.
The expansion plan foresees the current quay being extended by 60 metres for a total length of 420 metres. This would allow a large cruise ship and a cargo ship to come alongside at the same time, which is not currently possible.
CITC also wants to build a passenger terminal. Currently there are no facilities for passengers, and Immigration officials have to go aboard cruise ships to stamp tourists in and out. Apart from Immigration desks, the terminal would have rest areas, toilets, space for souvenir shops, and a parking lot for up to 56 cars and 29 tour buses.
If the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is approved – and opinions from public hearings form part of the EIA – work will start next year.
Port Director Wathanachai Raunglertpanyakul told The Phuket News that concerns raised during this first public hearing included questions about sedimentation caused by the construction of the quay extension, and by run-off from the construction site for the new passenger terminal; and increased traffic along Sakdidet Rd.
The expansion work can be started only after all studies are approved. CTIC, which is currently operating under a five-year renewable concession, plans to push for a longer contract, said Mr Wathanachai, because it will take 15 to 20 years to recoup the funds spent on the planned expansion.