Traffic through Sihanoukville port increased significantly in 2000, while the amount of shipments to Phnom Penh’s port saw a slight improvement, according to officials at the two port authorities.
The volume of trade at Sihanoukville port topped 1.6 million tons, a 44 percent increase from 1999, when just more than 1 million tons of goods were handled, according to statistics from the Sihanoukville Port Authority. Imports represented about 90 percent of the volume.
Figures for 2000 show trade volume at Sihanoukville port has almost doubled from the years 1995 through 1998.
“It shows the country’s economic activities are getting better with political stability,” said Lou Kim Chhun, director of Sihanoukville port.
He said a large increase in cement imports and a steady increase in fuel imports—despite higher prices—indicate that more construction and other development activities took place last year.
The volume of cement imported last year jumped to more than 553,000 tons, up from 218,000 tons in 1999, according to port statistics. Lou Kim Chhun said the increase also shows the cost of transporting cement through the seaport is much cheaper than transporting it over land from Thailand.
Nearly 302,000 tons of fuel were imported to Cambodia last year, a 17 percent increase from 1999, according to port statistics. Four times more fuel was imported in 2000 than 1995.
The importing of other container cargo climbed in 2000 to 512,000 tons, a 27 percent increase from the previous year.
“It reflects our port had good operations, attracting more cargo coming through our port,” Lou Kim Chhun said.
The sea port is undergoing major renovations and expansion, with a $39 million loan package from Japan. Construction is expected to start by the end of this year and be finished by mid-2004. The port’s handling capacity will be increased by 50 percent, according to the project plan.
Phnom Penh port, whose traffic had been decreasing for a few years, handled nearly 468,000 tons of goods last year, a slight increase from the 459,000 tons handled in 1998, according to the Phnom Penh Port Authority. The port’s peak came in 1997 when more than 658,000 tons of goods were shipped through the river port.
Hei Bavy, the capital’s river port director, said the upturn is due to a better economy and the settlement with Vietnam of licensing for cargo.
Until early last year, many shipping companies wanting to bring goods to Phnom Penh through Vietnam first had to get a license from either Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, according to a 1994 bilateral agreement. Now cargo can be shipped—free of charge—through Vietnam to Phnom Penh, Hei Bavy said.
In addition, Cambodia is negotiating with Vietnam to create a Phnom Penh-Ho Chi Minh City line, a waterway for vessels that dispatch goods to and from large containers at the Ho Chi Minh City port.
Hei Bavy said this addition is expected to increase activity at the Phnom Penh port, which cannot handle large ships because of its shallow waterway.
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