Connecting Myanmar - Towards a Framework for a Sustainable and Stakeholder-inclusive Deep Sea Port Development Strategy

A case study of ports in Myanmar

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Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a country in Southeast Asia with a population close to 60 million people, which suffers from underdeveloped infrastructure. With the change of government and restoration of democracy starting from 2011, policy reforms are anticipated leading to large-scale economic development and growth. This growth is expected to result in rapidly increasing trade volumes. Myanmar’s maritime infrastructure needs upgrades: existing ports are mainly up-river, have limited draught and need continuous dredging. Currently, six deep sea port projects are being planned, but it is not known whether these sites have been selected based on rational, commercial and technical considerations or on (geo)political interests from the past. If these sites have been selected based on outdated political considerations, rather than commercial, well-grounded and sustainable development, they may struggle to obtain finances and support. Especially in the past, port sites were often allocated based on (geo)political considerations. However, because site selection is critical to port development and the long-term success and growth of a port, research into optimum and sustainable site selection is of significant value. The research objective is development of a strategy for deep sea port site selection and port development in Myanmar, by developing, validating and applying a framework for sustainable site selection, integrating a stakeholder-inclusive approach and ecosystem services. This framework is developed based on literature and desk study, and a comprehensive case study conducted in Myanmar. The strategy elaborates upon the optimum site selection (process), conceptual lay-outs and biggest challenges. Following the developed two-step site selection process, a short list with the sites Pathein, Yangon, Mawlamyine and Dawei was obtained. By means of a Multi-Actor Multi-Criteria Analysis and a cluster-based ranking, Mawlamyine and Yangon ended first. Yangon seems like a logical choice for deep sea port development, as it is the economic center of the country with the best hinterland connectivity. Despite pressure from stakeholders, it is concluded that Yangon is not a suitable location for deep sea port development because of physical restraints. However, it is a crucial port and must be part of the strategy. Yangon and Thilawa port should maintain and strengthen their current activities, and this appears best in combination with a deep sea port near Kalegauk Island (near Mawlamyine), which is connected with a high-quality road connection to Thailand and the Greater Mekong Subregion. Besides, this site offers many opportunities with respect to Ecosystem Services, by using Ecosystem-Based design principles. This port will accommodate the large Post-Panamax vessels and Yangon and its hinterland will be connected to it by sea, road and rail. Yangon port functions as a feeder port or extended gateway in this combination. This combination of ports can for instance be found in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Besides the combination Kalegauk Island and Yangon, a combination of Pathein (Near Nga Yoke Kaung) and Yangon may be a possible port combination. However, this needs additional research.