Feature: Melaka port hopes for revival of past glory on Maritime Silk Road

Source: Xinhua| 2017-05-10 23:52:32|Editor: yan
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MELAKA, Malaysia, May 10 (Xinhua) -- Looking over a vast stretch of tranquil sea, a stone tablet reads "the world's longest and busiest strait" in English, Malay, Chinese and Arabic.

This is Melaka, also known as Malacca, once a trade hub so important that people named the Malacca Strait after it. Now it has only one inconspicuous harbor. On holidays, some tourists come to see the remnants of its past glory. Otherwise, the streets are quiet.

Melaka's fortune in ancient times stemmed from the prosperity of the Maritime Silk Road. Now that China is calling for the revival of the seafaring route, Melaka is eager to join in an effort to restore its lost glory.


Some six hundred years ago, Melaka reached its golden age with the rise of the Maritime Silk Road, a route covering East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, West Asia and East Africa.

More than 84 languages were used in Melaka, attesting to its status as a truly international trade hub, Chief Minister of Melaka Idris Haron said.

One highlight of the ancient Maritime Silk Road was the expeditions led by Chinese admiral Zheng He. During his seven voyages, Zheng docked his fleet of hundreds of ships with tens of thousands of crew members in Melaka five times.

Exchanges with other countries and states greatly enriched life in Melaka, bringing not only wealth and goods but also culture and technology. With the help of Zheng's crew, locals improved their shipbuilding and construction technologies and even learned to establish their own currency system.

"Connection to the ancient Maritime Silk Road can be found in many historical sites in Melaka," said Onn Huann Jan, associate professor with Malaysia's Southern University College.

However, the Melaka Sultanate lost its luster after being conquered and colonized by the Portuguese. It is now Malaysia's smallest state with just one million people while its neighboring cities on the western coast of the Malay Peninsula, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, have become global metropolises.

Reminiscent of the benefits of a thriving Maritime Silk Road, Melaka has been pioneering Malaysia's active participation in China's Belt and Road Initiative.


Malaysia is building a huge deep-sea port in Melaka through cooperation with Chinese companies such as PowerChina, Yantian Port and Rizhao Port. Once completed, the port will be the largest of its kind in the Malacca Strait.

The Melaka Gateway, a complex consisting of the port and vast stretches of commercial, industrial and tourism facilities, will sprawl over 1,366 acres and cost some 9.8 billion U.S. dollars.

"More than 100,000 ships pass through the Malacca Strait annually. The Melaka Gateway will be a new cost-saving option for those ships," said Gan Tian Loo, a Melaka commerce official in charge of business cooperation with China.

In addition to the port, Melaka is working to improve air and land transport capacity. It is upgrading its airport and has launched direct flights to and from Guangzhou, a manufacturing hub in south China. The city will also be a stop of the planned Malaysia-Singapore high-speed railway.

Improved connectivity has already brought in a surge of Chinese investment and tourists, creating thousands of jobs for the city. But Idris has set his sights on the future, believing Melaka, with its new port, will become a gateway linking South East Asia, China and the whole world.

"The revival of the Maritime Silk Road in the 21st century will bring vitality back to Melaka, like it did six hundred years ago," Idris said.