Cambodia, VN To Simplify Mekong Shipping

An agreement is being negotiated between Cambodia and Viet­nam that will cut down the number of Mekong River checkpoints, through which cargo ships must pass, in order to facilitate the speedy arrival of goods to the Phnom Penh port, officials said.

Mom Sibun, secretary of state for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said by telephone Wed­nesday that the agreement, about which officials from both countries have already met several times, is necessary to give the country’s entire shipping industry a boost.

“We need an agreement between Cambodia and Vietnam to improve shipping activity across the Mekong River before entering our Phnom Penh port,” he said.

There are currently four checkpoints on the Mekong—two in Vietnam, two in Cambodia—at which cargo ships need to be pro­cessed, he said, adding that it has taken ships up to two weeks in the past just to navigate through the nautical bureaucracy.

In the would-be agreement, there will be only two checkpoints, one at the border and another at Phnom Penh port, he said.

Chan Dara, director of Phnom Penh port’s shipping department, said the pending agreement will help increase the level of economic activity in Cambodia.

“The agreement will better facilitate shipping activity…. This can attract more shipping to Phnom Penh,” he said, adding that he ultimately hopes to reduce the number of checkpoints to just one at the Phnom Penh port.

The agreement stands to benefit other countries that use the Me­kong for commerce—like Singa­pore and many European countries—and another meeting to discuss the matter is due to be held in Ho Chi Minh City in January, he said.

The Mekong River Commission is coordinating the negotiations, according to Hiek Phirun, a navigation representative for the MRC, which is an intergovernmental body created by the four countries that share the Lower Mekong Basin—Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.

Through the MRC, the Belgian government has put about $1 million into establishing 56 buoys along the roughly 100-km stretch of the Mekong from the Cambodia-Viet­nam border to Phnom Penh port, which will not only make navigation safer, but will also allow for economical night travel for ships.

Once drafted, the agreement will need approval from the National Assembly, Mom Sibun said.

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