A port under construction in Kampot province will help transform the town into a major commercial area and will offer competition to the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, the port’s future operator and Kampot’s provincial governor said.
The port is being constructed next to a 600-hectare, unfinished special economic zone, which could house factories that produce shoes, garments and tires, said Kampot SEZ director Vinh Hour, whose company is also building the port.
“The port would be used to import raw materials supplying the factories and to export the final product,” he said.
The port and SEZ may be completed by 2010, though full development of the site, which will include a residential area, could take until 2018, he said.
The port will have a 400-meter-long docking area and a 9-meter depth, he said, making it smaller than the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port up the coast, which has a 750-meter-long docking zone and is 10 meters deep.
The port will likely first begin operations by exporting salt and cement, though several companies have expressed interest in building factories on the SEZ site, he said.
Dredging on the site, which began in October 2007, will be completed by the end of the year, he said.
Kampot Provincial Governor Khoy Khun Hour said the port will help change his province into a major commercial area.
“It will open up to other transportation from various parts of the country because it is closer to [Phnom Penh] than the Preah Sihanouk port. It is just 150 km from Phnom Penh to the port,” he said.
Enlargement of National Road 33, which links Kampot to Vietnam, and the $1 billion Bokor Mountain development under construction will also add to the port’s importance, he said.
Lou Kim Chhun, director-general of Sihanoukville port, declined to comment on competition with the Kampot port but said the two should cooperate.
Still, he said there is a limit to port capacity for the country, he said.
“I think we should join together to build the country. The more we have, the more we will get. But if it became infinite, it would be not good, like taking too much medicine. When you take too much, then it has side effects,” he said
Some residents said the port is already having an effect on the fishing industry.
Kong Chhe, a seafood distributor, 67, said since the dredging began the amount of available seafood hauled in by fishermen has decreased by 75 percent.
Fisherman who once brought in 20 kg of shrimp daily now only manage to bring in 5 kg a day, he said.
“I feel pity for the poor community,” he said. “It get worse for the fishermen.”
But he said his proximity to the port could ultimately benefit his family.
“I’m going to wait and see how the port looks and how much benefit we get,” he said.
Vinh Hour said the port will hurt fishing communities but the company will not dredge some areas until factories are complete so as to provide jobs for them.
“And if they keep their love of fishing, then we will discuss another alternative again,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Tim Sturrock)