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The Thanaleng Dry Port and its associated Vientiane Logistics Park have significantly bolstered connectivity between Southeast Asia and global markets, the facility’s developer has told the President of Timor-Leste, Dr Jose Ramos-Horta.

The leader of Timor-Leste, which is seeking to become a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), visited Laos’ integrated logistics centre on Friday during his state visit to Laos, which is the current chair of ASEAN.

“We are the last piece in the jigsaw to connect ASEAN to the world,” the dry port’s managing director, Mr Sakhone Philangam, told the president and his entourage.

Laos has been emerging as a trade gateway between ASEAN, China and beyond thanks to the operation of the Laos-China railway, which converges with the Laos-Thailand railway at the dry port – a multimodal transport centre that facilitates road, rail and sea shipment.

Functioning as a border checkpoint for freight, the dry port and logistics park link to regional and global logistics centres.

Towards other Southeast Asian countries, the dry port leads to Thailand and can reach Malaysia. The Lao dry port’s operator has signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the Malaysian operator of the Perlis Inland Port, seeking to reach the Andaman Sea. From there, cargo could be forwarded to Indonesia.

Through the Laos-China railway and the China-Europe rail network, cargo from Southeast Asia can also access European markets.

On Thursday (February 29), the first train from Thailand passed through the dry port on its way to Italy, according to Mr Sakhone.

Opening for service in December 2021, the dry port aims to reduce logistics costs and increase competitiveness by maximising cargo loads and putting an end to the return of empty trucks.

In 2022, the dry port handled 49,183 containers, which were shipped to countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, China and Russia.
Mr Sakhone told the guests that the dry port and Vientiane Logistics Park are part of the Lao Logistics Link project, which is being developed by PTL Holding Company Limited in partnership with the Lao and Vietnamese governments.

The project includes the Vung Ang seaport in Vietnam’s central Ha Tinh province, a planned railway linking the seaport to Thanaleng Dry Port, and a planned dry port in central Khammuan province through which the railway will pass.

President of the Executive Board of Strategy and Planning at PTL Holding Company Limited and former Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office, Mr Alounkeo Kittikhoun, told the guests that the Lao Logistics Link project is part of the Lao government’s strategy to transform landlocked Laos into a land-link country.

To tap the trade and investment potential created by enhanced connectivity, the Lao investor is also developing the US$547-million logistics park to attract foreign investment.

The park includes an export processing zone, a logistics park, a free trade zone, and a technology and halal hub, which can be an area of opportunity for companies in Indonesia as the country is a major market for halal food.
Goods manufactured or assembled in Laos enjoy privileged access to markets in countries whose governments have waived or reduced import tariffs on made-in-Laos products. More than 30 countries, including Australia, Canada, members of the European Union (EU 28), Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Switzerland and Turkiye have extended such privileges to Laos.

In an interview with the Lao media after his visit to the dry port, Timor-Leste’s President said he was impressed by the project, which has bolstered Laos’ land-link and connectivity efforts.

“I think [the] Lao PDR is doing very well,” Dr Ramos-Horta said, referring to the Lao government’s efforts to overcome the challenges of being landlocked.

With Laos being integrated into the global transport network, the Belt and Road Initiative, the president said “I think being landlocked no longer constitutes a problem for trade for [the] Lao PDR.”

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