A maritime education center has been established at the former Phnom Penh Port to train Cambodians to become deck officers in the merchant navy and staff the nation’s flag-of-convenience vessels.
Lieven Geerninck, a consultant to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport as part of the Belgian Technical Cooperation agency, said Cambodian sailors trained at the new center could improve the country’s shipping registry, which has long had a poor reputation in the maritime industry.
Currently, not a single Cambodian is known to work on the crew of any of the estimated 700 foreign vessels sailing international waters under Cambodia’s flag of convenience, which allows shipping operators to register vessels in Cambodia while manning them with crews from all over the world.
“The trained seamen would be the ears and eyes on ships with Cambodia’s flag-of-convenience flags,” said Seng Lim Neou, secretary of state for the Council of Ministers, which oversees shipping activities.
Captain Patrick Blonde, general manager of the Antwerp Maritime Academy, which is the lead partner and coordinator of the project, said the long-term goal of the training center is to raise Cambodia’s reputation in the industry.
“We sincerely hope that this project will help Cambodia to take its place in the ranks of maritime nations,” Blonde said.
The immediate goal of the center is to train young technicians and managers in procedures set by the International Maritime Organization to “guarantee safe working conditions for the seafarer and safe sailing conditions for the ship and its cargo.”
Thouk Thirith, one of the trainees, said he hoped that his education at the new center would allow him to make an “international standard salary” on a seafaring vessel.
He said ships flying Cambodian flags need Cambodian officers on board to make sure that “everything is done lawfully.”