Japan Agrees to a $39 Million Loan to Improve S’ville’s Port

Japan has agreed to loan Cam­bodia $39 million for an expansion and renovation of Si­hanouk­ville Port, port officials and the Japanese Embassy said Monday.

Var Sonath, deputy director for the international port, said the project will be the first major renovation since the port opened in 1960. The project is badly needed to meet the increasing number of container ships, he said.

“More and more international ships have been coming through our port as the political situation has stabilized and security is improved,” said Var Sonath. “We need to manage the increasing number of ships to help the country’s development.”

Both countries are scheduled to sign the loan agreement on Friday, officials said.

The plan includes expanding the port’s main pier from 350 meters long to 590 meters and the container yard from 30,000 square meters to 60,000 square meters. A new container terminal also will be built and the port’s depth will be increased from 8 meters to 9 meters. Work is scheduled to begin in 2001.

When completed in 2003, the port is expected to enable several 10,000-ton ships to dock at the same time, officials said.

Most of the estimated $43 million project will be covered by the 30-year, 1-percent interest Japan­ese loan, Var Sonath said. Japan is committing 4.1 billion yen which, based on current ex­change rates, is equivalent to about $39 million.

The remainder of the project’s cost will be paid by the Inter­national Port Department, officials said.

The pre-development study on the project was completed in April 1997 by the Japanese Inter­national Cooperation Agency, but Japan pulled out of the project after the factional fighting erupted in July that year.

Earlier this year, Cambodia again asked Japan to support the project. An extended feasibility study will be conducted next year, officials said.

The loan will be disbursed through the Japan’s Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund, said Japanese Consular Eiji Yamamoto.                                                 Sihanoukville Port handled more than 884,000 tons of goods last year and expects to manage

1 million tons of goods this year, the largest volume since 1960, said Var Sonath.

“The international port is very important for Cambodia to connect with other Asian countries,” said Var Sonath. “We estimate about 1.2 million tons of goods would come through the port after the renovation is completed in 2003.”

Japan has granted more than $500 million to Cambodia’s re­construction since 1993, according to the embassy.

At the Febru­ary’s Consultative Group meeting in Tokyo, it pledged another $100 million to fund Cambodia for the next two years.

Embassy officials said the new loan is excluded from the CG pledge.

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