Phnom Penh Port Sees Sharp Decline in Profits and Goods

A sharp decrease in profits and the amount of goods moving through Phnom Penh port has prompted the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port to rethink the way it does business, port Director of Traffic and Op­er­ations Eang Veng Sun said Mon­day.

Port officials signed an agreement in January with Chinese-owned Sovereign Base Logistics Holdings Co Ltd to move shipping containers on and off ships at the port, Eang Veng Sun said.

Sovereign will begin operating regular shipping between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh in August, with barges making two two-day round trips per week.

This will save shipping companies money and time and could bring in as many as 3,500 shipping containers per year to Phnom Penh, Eang Veng Sun said.

Only 65 ships visited the port in the first half of the year, down from 102 ships in the first six months of 2001, according to port statistics.

Officials had hoped to import 78,800 tons of goods through the port during the first half of 2002, but only managed to bring in 17,113 tons. More than 7,000 tons worth of goods were exported from the port during that same period—far short of the goal of 37,800 tons. Phnom Penh port handled 658,000 tons of goods in 1997. By 2000, that amount had decreased to 468,000 tons.

The port brought in $403,408 in total income during the first half of 2002, Eang Veng Sun said. That’s down 13 percent from the first six months of 2001, he said.

Profit margins at the government-operated port have gradually dwindled since 1992, partly because the international Siha­nouk­ville sea port has since been privatized and is more efficient, Eang Veng Sun said. Officials hoped the Phnom Penh port will eventually be privatized, Eang Veng Sun said. Poor service and poor management at the Phnom Penh port, as well as high fees and bureaucratic obstacles presented by officials in Vietnam, have driven shipping operators away from the capital, he said.

Ships destined for Phnom Penh must go through an inspection when they enter Vietnam from the South China Sea and again when they exit. They are also inspected when they arrive in Cambodia via the Mekong River and again in Phnom Penh.

Cambodian and Vietnamese officials have negotiated in recent years an arrangement that creates a Phnom Penh-Ho Chi Minh City waterway for vessels that dispatch goods to and from large containers at the Ho Chi Minh City port. Phnom Penh port cannot handle large ships because of its shallow waterway.


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