A recently approved US$45 billion investment in Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor is set to solidify the country’s position as ASEAN’s regional aerospace hub. The Eastern Economic Corridor Bill will earmark these funds for the general development of the region, including, most notably, U-Tapao’s future Aeropolis – an entire city infrastructure built around said airport – and will likely help Thailand surpass the US$9.3 billion of foreign investment the country drew in 2017 for the EEC. The earmarked funds will also cover the construction of a motorway, deep sea ports, a high-speed railway linking the country’s three major airports (Suvarnabhumi, U-Tapao, and Don Mueang), and other infrastructural developments.
“As one of the most visited countries in the world year after year, Thailand is ready to embrace its future as the most significant aerospace hub in the ASEAN region,” says Chokedee Kaewsang, deputy secretary general of Thailand Board of Investment. “The EEC bill passing is an exciting development, and we look forward to our country’s aerospace sector continuing its meteoric growth in the coming years.”
Thailand’s aerospace industry is growing exponentially. Currently, its air traffic is rising at a rate three times faster than the global market, doubling every 15 years since the early 1980s. The EEC Aeropolis, projected to be in place by 2023, will relieve some of the swell of tourists expected to continue traveling through Thailand’s main airports. Anchored by U-Tapao Airport, it will also include free trade, logistics, and airport industry areas, as well as a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) centre and several other features to ameliorate the anticipated volume of travelers. An inner ring, extending 10 kilometers out from U-Tapao Airport, will host the Aeropolis’ city infrastructure, while the outer ring is where logistics activity will take place and connect resident companies with logistics infrastructure in Chon Buri, Chachoengsao and Rayong.
The EEC Aeropolis project also strengthens Thailand’s already significant maintenance, repair and overhaul capabilities. Thailand’s total MRO expenditure is expected to reach a total of US$10.6 billion through 2024, and the top five components produced in Thailand (wheels and brakes, APU, IFE components, engine-fuel and control, and landing gear) is forecasted to generate more than US$1.7 billion through the same time period. Major aerospace companies already present in Thailand’s EEC include Chromalloy, which supports commercial aviation engine manufacturers, and TurbineAero, which was chosen in February by Boeing to provide aftermarket support in the Asia Pacific region.
In March, the Thai Government invited a group of international journalists and investors to attend the seminar, “Thailand Taking Off to New Heights”, which drew more than 3,000 participants, including Thai and foreign investors, international press and government agencies, and guided them on a visit to the EEC area and U-Tapao soon-to-be Aeropolis site. A delegation from the Thailand Board of Investment, led by Salil Wisalswadi, acting executive advisor of Thailand Board of Investment, will also be attending the MRO Americas trade show in April 2018 to provide more information on investment opportunities in aerospace and MRO sector in Thailand.
“Considering our country’s strengths in maintenance, repair and overhaul services, we look forward to attending MRO Americas this month (April) and speaking with industry professionals about the numerous opportunities available to North American aerospace companies in Thailand,” added Kaewsang.
As has been the trend for the past several years, major foreign investment activity into Thailand’s EEC continues to expand, and February was a particularly busy month for the Thai aviation sector. In February, Rolls-Royce signed an agreement with Thai Airways to offer testbed capacity for the airline, a move the company described as a crucial building block to their growth in the ASEAN region.
That same month, Airbus announced a partnership with Thai Aviation Industries in which Airbus will support all of Thailand’s law enforcement and military helicopters for the next two years. Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, also announced that Thai Aviation Services would serve as its Customer Support Centre.
“Recently ranked the least miserable country in the world by Bloomberg, Thailand offers international aerospace companies a high quality of life, access to a skilled and talented workforce, and a business-friendly climate,” concluded Kaewsang. “We look forward to seeing our peers at MRO Americas and sharing the strengths of our aviation sector with them in person.”