27
Oct
13

Bridge over troubled waters

Straits project a bridge too far?

KINIBIZ Economists are questioning the economic viability of building a bridge from Teluk Gong in Malacca with the port of Dumai in Sumatra across the Straits of Malacca, after it emerged that the plan which was first mooted in 1995, could be revived.

“While there is no specific feasibility studies to reference, available data in terms of population size, economic capacity of the Indonesian people in the Dumai area and the prospect of substantial capital investment, makes the project’s viability quite questionable,” said RAM Holdings group chief economist Yeah Kim Leng.

The project was first suggested in the mid-nineties, under then prime minister Dr Mathathir Mohamad, but shelved when the Asian Financial Crises hit. In the later years of the 2000s, the project came up every once in awhile; in 2006 and again in 2009 then Malacca chief minister Ali Rustam broached the subject, but again it never took off.

It is estimated that the 48km plus bridge from Teluk Gong in Malacca to Pulau Rupat (the closest connecting point) will cost approximately RM44.3 billion, and at this length is will be the longest sea crossing in the world. From there, a 71.2km highway across Pulau Rupat will connect the bridge with the port city of Dumai.

Yeah highlighted that funding the project will be a major issue, as either public or private investment will come with its own set of concerns.

Although the Export-Import Bank of China (EXIM), have indicated in the past that it would be willing to invest substantially in the project, Yeah says that the are still long-term cost issues. He notes “even if the EXIM bank funded the project, there is the issue of repayment, which will be substantial … is there really a sufficient amount of traffic to be able to pay it off and at what rate (toll rate)? … it is likely that the governments will have to step in to top it up (repayment costs).”

In the event, that the government decides to fund the project, then the question shifts to the multiplier effects to make it worthwhile, said Yeah. He questions if there are better projects to spend the money on, especially in view of the government’s recent announcements that it will be sequencing mega projects, to prioritise those with high multiplier effects and low import content.

…more
Straits project a bridge too far?
Stephanie Jacob, KiniBiz
Oct 17, 2013 – Malaysiakini

 

Bridge to Dumai: Don’t jump (for joy) too soon

Malacca-Dumai Bridge project could increase the national debt level and a cost-benefit analysis should be done first, said CIMB chief economist Lee Heng Guie.

UPDATED

PETALING JAYA: The federal and Malacca state governments should consider the current economic situation and debt problem before undertaking the Malacca-Dumai bridge project across the Straits of Malacca, said CIMB chief economist Lee Heng Guie.

Lee said the government should conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis before it carrying such a mega-project.

He said it would be an extra burden for the government to contain the increasing national debt because work on the Mass Rapid Transit project had already started.

The chief economist suggested revamping the public transportation system in the country before thinking of a bridge to connect Indonesia.

The 48.69km bridge, crossing one of the busiest international shipping waterway, would be the world’s longest, even without including a 71.2km-long highway to be built between Dumai and Pulau Rupat.

The idea to build the bridge was first mooted in 1995 to increase economic opportunities between Malaysia and Indonesia but halted during the Asian financial crisis in 1997.

Strait of Malacca Partners Sdn Bhd owner Lim Sue Beng had already done a feasibility study on the bridge and presented a paper at the 8th Asean Leadership Forum at Hotel Nikko in Jakarta in May 2011.

The company also appointed the Hunan Provincial Communications Planning, Survey & Design Institute of China to prepare the bridge design.

The project was again discussed during the 10th Chief Ministers and Governors’ Forum (CMGF) of the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) held in Koh Samui, Thailand, on Sept 12.

Among the matters discussed was the economic potential and strategic positioning of the IMT-GT with the construction of the bridge.

It has been reported that the Export-Import (Exim) Bank of China had agreed to finance 85% of the bridge’s cost of about RM44.3billion.

Economically challenging

RAM chief economist Dr Yeah Kim Leng said the project would be economically challenging due to its high cost.

Dr Yeah said even though the project could be implemented through a public-private partnership approach, at the end of the day the financing burden would fall on the government.

“This will indirectly involve taxpayers’ money which should be used for projects to benefit the public,” he said.

Dr Yeah said the government should look into the debt level and budget deficit before thinking of mega projects.

Civil engineering expert Prof Andrew Chan from the University of Nottingham (Malaysia campus) said technically it is feasible to build the bridge but questioned whether there is a demand for such a mega-project.

He added that there were some highways built without public demand and the government should conduct a study to show that the project benefited the public.

…more
Bridge to Dumai: Don’t jump (for joy) too soon
P Ramani
October 17, 2013 – FMT

 

The proposed Strait of Malacca bridge: Linking or breaking the region?

Plans have been mooted to construct a bridge to link the Indonesian port-city of Dumai in the Sumatran province of Riau with Malacca. This bridge will obviously result to any of these two circumstances; linking or breaking the region.

Another issue which arises is whether the bridge could really foster economic benefits for both countries. Would the level of cost involved in constructing the bridge be justified by subsequent usage?

The cost of constructing the bridge would result in high debt liabilities for both Malaysia and Indonesia which would be passed on to bridge users in higher tolls. In contrast to the Oresund Bridge in the Scandinavian region, both Malaysia and Indonesia are developing States and do not enjoy the relatively high standards of living of Scandinavia.

If the toll imposed on the bridge is too expensive, the public at large may refrain from using it and may revert to using ferries and boats to cross the Strait of Malacca.

In terms of tourism, the bridge may attract more tourists into both countries but this cannot be guaranteed. With the tropical weather conditions which are common in both Malaysia and Indonesia, thunder storms are a natural phenomenon in the evening. Driving across the Strait would be dangerous in this type of weather.

If there is not much vehicle traffic on the bridge, drivers may likely then be exposed to hijacking and other criminal activities like highway robberies and carjacking. The substantial length of the bridge which is likely to be up to 127.92km would make it difficult for the authorities to maintain the safety and security of drivers.

Malacca on the Malaysian side is a strategic site for the bridge as Malacca and other major cities in Malaysia including Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Johor Bahru and neighbouring Singapore are not too far away from Malacca.

These cities are served with good highway connections that link them to the city of Malacca. However, Dumai is not a similarly strategic site on the Indonesian side as it only has a relatively small population of around 215,789 in 2008, is not a major city in Indonesia and is distant from other main Indonesian cities like Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Medan, Palembang and Padang.

Dumai is not served with a good network of expressways connecting it with these other cities. The proposed bridge plan would only be practically viable if it connects Malacca with another major city or cities in Indonesia, particularly Jakarta.

With the emergence of many budget airlines like Air Asia, Sriwijaya Air and Lion Air in the region that provide affordable flight services, flying is likely to be the preferred method of transportation. Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia is approximately 1063 kms away from Dumai.

So, it would be more practical for Indonesians that reside in Jakarta or other parts of Java, wishing to come to Malaysia to fly directly to Kuala Lumpur instead of driving a long way to Dumai to use the bridge. For Malaysians that intend to go to Sumatra or Java, flying would be the preferred option over using the bridge as it is a cheaper mode of transportation and not as time consuming.

Conclusion

Taking these considerations into account, having a bridge connection between Malacca and Dumai is not likely to boost economic growth between the two nations. It could also be seen as a potential major navigational hazard for international shipping traffic transiting the Strait of Malacca as raising the likelihood of maritime accidents and marine pollution. For now, it is not entirely viable to have the bridge, not just yet. – September 24, 2013.

– Mohd Hazmi and Wan Izatul Asma

…more
The proposed Strait of Malacca bridge: Linking or breaking the region? – Mohd Hazmi and Wan Izatul Asma
September 24, 2013 – TMI

 

Malacca-Dumai bridge: More questions raised

Building bridges must have value-added purpose, not a competition for Book of Records listing.

PETALING JAYA: The idea to have a bridge connecting Malacca to Dumai in Sumatra, and achieving the title of longest suspension bridge in the world, receives a not ‘too glowing’ appraisal from a local structural expert.

Structure expert Cheong C Kwong who has over 30 years experience in bridge structures, gave FMT his expert views on bridge designs.

According to Cheong, the Straits of Malacca has a deep sea bed that requires to be studied before embarking on such a mega project.

“Before we can ever think on having a suspension bridge, the consultants need to carry out a ‘feasibility reconnaissance’ on the Straits of Malacca,” said Cheong.

The feasibility reconnaissance is to assist in determining whether an intended plan can eventually be implemented and development can proceed. The study will be able to determine the optimum point for a bridge span (length).

“In usual practise, the engineers will look for an optimum point from one end to another which means that the bridge will have the right span to hold the design,” said Cheong.

He added that when constructing bridges, engineers look for the shortest and optimum span (length) for a bridge, and not to compete for records such as building the longest bridge in the world.

According to Cheong, other factors to look into before constructing bridges is the pier (support) design for the bridge, how the pier will be supported and other dynamics of the bridge structure.

The reason behind why the bridge from Malacca to Dumai has to be a suspension bridge is because of the longer span (length) from one point to another, he explained.

He pointed out that the first and second Penang bridges were constructed using the ‘cable-stayed’ concept. A cable-stayed bridge has one or more towers (or pylons), from which cables support the bridge deck.

“To have [a] suspension bridge it will be very costly compared to [a] cable-stayed bridge,” he added.

Other poor factors

The structural expert commented that when constructing bridges, there should be some purpose and economic returns. He questions the valid economic returns to be benefited in having a bridge between Malacca and Dumai.

To him, he did not see any economic returns, apart from the hefty cost to construct the bridge.

Secondly, the structure expert believes that weather conditions will not permit the development of such a bridge.

“The engineers need to consider all the possibilities to have a strong support if an earthquake or tsunami takes place,” he said.

“Not only earthquakes, haze also impairs the vision and how are drivers able to see the road ahead,” he said.

Another technical point to be considered is that the height of the bridge is expected to be 76 metres above sea level and the bridge designers have proposed a ‘one-way single ship’ and ‘one-way double ship’ channel to pass under the bridge.

One way single and double ship is the pathway for ships to travel under the bridge.

He stated that the proposed 76m will not be an optimum if large or cruise ships were to pass under the bridge.

The structure expert also questioned as to who will control sea traffic management considering that the Straits of Malacca is known for it’s busy waters.

“This will surely create a traffic congestion on the sea,” he added.

…more
Malacca-Dumai bridge: More questions raised
P Ramani
October 24, 2013 – FMT

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