In a remote nook along Peninsular Malaysia's east coast, millions of tonnes of sand are being dredged up from the South China Sea to get Kuantan Port ready for the country's priciest infrastructure project yet: a RM55 billion (S$17.7 billion) railway link financed by China.
The East Coast Rail Line project (ECRL) will connect ports on the east and west coasts of Peninsular Malaysia and could alter regional trade routes which currently ply between the busy Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea via Singapore, officials say.
This potential game changer gives a glimpse of China's ambitions to expand its economic clout in Asia and beyond. And it explains why land is being reclaimed at such a frenzied pace at Kuantan Port.
The massive port expansion will feature a 1km-long berthing complex that will feed industries in nearby industrial zones earmarked specially for Chinese manufacturing concerns.
Officials say the upgrading of Kuantan Port, which will be completed by mid-2018, is only one part of what is shaping up to be Malaysia's most expensive infrastructure undertaking.
If everything comes together as planned, the new links could bypass Singapore and offer exporters new options to reach markets in North Asia. Exports from North Asia could also bypass looping around Singapore to get to the busy Strait of Malacca, proponents of the project argue.
Source : Straits Times