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Myanmar turns to private sector to run lines

Yangon: The Myanmar government has allowed private national entrepreneurs to run shipping lines, aiming to develop the country's foreign trade and help exporters and importers in their business engagement, the local-language Myanmar Times reported Thursday.

It was disclosed by Transport Minister Major-General Thein Swe who met local businessmen in Nay Pyi Taw recently, the report said. It is the first move to grant the private sector to set up such enterprises since 1959 and up till now there exists the sole state-owned Myanmar Five Star Lines (MFSL) which is directly operated by the ministry. The MFSL has opened branch offices in 11 countries and regions of China, India, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong SAR and Singapore with which Myanmar has maritime trade links, rendering services for Myanmar exporters and importers, the report said.

Before the sea transport sector was liberalized, the air transport sector has been opened to the private sector, the report noted, citing the already-established Air Bagan which stands a full private investment by national entrepreneur, the Htoo Trading Company. Set up in November 2004, the company's Air Bagan has been launching flights between Yangon and 17 domestic destinations and on May 15 this year, it extended its first international flight to Bangkok.

So far, the MFSL owns 23 ocean vessels engaged in overseas and coastal shipping services, according to official statistics which also show that the ministry uses over 700 other state-run vessels for inland water transport services.  [06/07/07]

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