Phnom Penh tour boat operators along the Tonle Sap river who were recently relocated and forced to adhere to a new business model, must now apply for licenses and number plates in order to operate, officials said yesterday.
City officials met with owners of 31 boats yesterday to discuss the licenses and their new docking arrangements that result from their January relocation from near Phsar Kandal to an area north of the main tourist strip near Wat Phnom. The meeting did not decide whether the current location is temporary or permanent.
“Generally, the tour boats are doing business without legal documentation,” said Ly Savet, deputy Cabinet chief for the city. “We want boat owners to have driving and business licenses.”
The boat owners have seen the way they do business change drastically over the last month. In addition to relocation, which municipal officials said was due to the untidiness of operators’ former location, a professional organization, the Phnom Penh Tourist Water Transport Association, has also required operators to adhere to a fixed pricing regime in which customers may not choose which boat to ride.
PPWTA Director Ly Puthy said operators would need one month to apply for the licenses.
“I would like to get the cheapest price possible,” he said, adding that free licenses are a better option.
Hei Bavy, director-general of the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port, said the new controls and enforcement will lead to better running and safer operations. There are also plans to create electronic systems to track tour boats.
“We create this system in order to keep our guests in safety and security,” he said. “We will know where our guests and boats are, when we have this system.”
Still he suggested changes, such as allowing customers to choose their own boats.
Chum Iek, secretary of state for the Ministry of Tourism, said that the docking situation for the boats needed to improve.
“Please, Phnom Penh Municipality, offer a specific dock. If not, there will be a drop in guests,” he said.
Mr Bavy said that the municipality is still deliberating about the dock location for the boat operators.
“If [the boats] are allowed to park next to the riverbank, that’s good,” he said. “We should create a floating dock if [boats] are not allowed to dock next to the riverbank.”