The first of 56 buoys was lowered into the Mekong River on Thursday, kicking off a Mekong River Commission plan to facilitate trade and make navigation safer between Phnom Penh and the Vietnamese border, officials said.
Boats can travel by day along the 100-km stretch between the capital and the border, but the 56 lighted buoys will allow for travel “24 hours per day,” said Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol at a launch cere- mony for the project in Phnom Penh.
“Navigation at night doubles the trade time,” said Lieven Geerinck, chief technical adviser of the navigation program at the MRC, an intergovernmental body created by the four countries that share the Lower Mekong Basin—Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.
The project, costing nearly $1 million, is funded by the Belgian government, and is part of a larger plan to establish markers all along the Mekong from Phnom Penh through Vietnam to the South China Sea by the end of 2008, said Hiek Phirun, MRC navigation program manager.
Direct travel to locations like Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong via the Mekong will save export companies millions of dollars, Sun Chanthol said.
Hei Bavy, general director of the Phnom Penh Port Authority, said he hopes 24-hour navigability of the Mekong will increase the port’s traffic flow by 25 percent.
“Now, the Phnom Penh port has 12 percent of the total boat traffic in and out of Cambodia. We hope next year it will be more than 15 percent,” he said.