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Japan-Cambodia Port Development continues amid pandemic

Kay Kimsong / Khmer Times Share:
Kobe-Osaka, International Corporation Port’s management takes Khmer Times COO, Kay Kimsong on a tour to see the port facility. Supplied

Khmer Times was granted an opportunity to visit the site of Japan’s Kobe-Osaka In­ternational Port Corporation and visit Japanese logistics firm Kamigumi’s container terminal office in late Febru­ary to learn how they have successfully operated for the last six years.

Speaking to port opera­tion employees and officials from the Ministry of Land of Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT), all of them shared their best ex­periences in managing the Kingdom’s Port of Sihanouk­ville (PAS).

Asked how the Kobe- Osaka Port management facilitates the sharing of pro­fessional skills to its Cambo­dian partner, they said Cam­bodians are smart enough to learn from Japanese experts.

“I think it will take about three years for us to train Cambodian workers to be crane drivers and to be pro­fessional,” said the Director- General Kobe Port Office MLIT Takeshi Okutani.

Regarding revenue-mak­ing, Kobe-Osaka’s General- Manager of the Business Development Department hopes the PAS’ growth will be fast and operations will be successful in the region.

“I understand that the port poses a lot of benefits in terms of logistics, so the national government can try to increase export and stimulate trade,” he said, as he expressed hopes the number of containers com­ing through the port will in­crease in the future.

“Phase 1 of the container terminals will be completed by 2023. It will take about four years to complete Phase 2. By 2030, Phase 3 will hopefully be finished,” he added.

However, the project has hit a snag this year with the emergence of the global novel coronavirus pandemic.

In Phnom Penh, several industries recently noticed a slowing down in the pro­gress of the joint develop­ment project. Despite this, they remain sure its progress will pick up once the pan­demic has abated.

Ouk Reaksmey, Japan International Coopera­tion Agency’s (JICA) senior programme officer for In­frastructure Division, told Khmer Times that he hopes all Japanese-assisted pro­jects will see good progress, as he claimed the COVID-19 does not seem to pose any lasting serious impact on the project.

All of the Japanese ex­perts, he said, have left the Kingdom by April. Neverthe­less, he said JICA experts and the port management have been keeping communica­tion lines open via social me­dia platforms.

Mr. Reaksmey said the long-term investment be­tween PAS and Kobe-Osaka International Port Corpora­tion continues as usual but for the temporary halt in the provision of expert as­sistance.

“I think all of JICA’s pro­jects in Cambodia are still ongoing. We are only hitting a pause with the training and some assistance from Japanese experts because of the coronavirus,” said Mr Reaksmey.

Recently, he said, PAS is requesting JICA for new ex­perts to help in assisting with the port’s development pro­ject since the previous ones finished their assignment and returned to Japan.

Khmer Times in August 2017 reported JICA’s sign­ing of an agreement which sought to provide a low-interest loan of about $214 million for a new container terminal project at the Siha­noukville Port in a bid to im­prove the Kingdom’s logis­tics and promote trade.

The new container ter­minal is scheduled to open in October 2023, boosting the PAS’ container cargo-handling capacity by about 450,000 TEU, or more than 50 percent from its current capacity.

Japanese senior officials from Ministry of Land of Infrastructure, Transport and
Tourism explained the operations system of Kobe-Osaka port. Supplied

Last year, JICA sold all its shares in PAS to Japanese lo­gistics firm Kamigumi. JICA, who acquired PAS shares during the port’s initial pub­lic offering (IPO) in 2017, sold 2.5 percent of its stake in the Cambodian port to Kobe-Osaka International Port Corporation the follow­ing year, bringing its stake in PAS to 11 percent.

According to Mr Reaks­mey, the completion of the development project will make Sihanoukville city the second-largest development city after Phnom Penh. With the recent infrastructure development in Sihanouk­ville – from buildings, roads and airport to hotels, resorts and beaches – we can imag­ine how bright the future of Sihanoukville will be,” said Mr Reaksmey.

Ministry of Public Works and Transport spokesman Va Simsorya likewise said COVID-19 has not brought any major impact to the project’s progress. “We have been holding meetings online via Telegram. Coop­eration between Japan and Cambodia continues,” said Mr Simsorya. “Japanese pro­jects in Cambodia won’t fail because all projects have already been assessed prop­erly.” Mr Simsorya said de­spite fewer Japanese private investments in the Kingdom as compared with other for­eign investments such as China, Japan’s Official Devel­opment Assistance (ODA) for public infrastructures, such as road and bridges, are still significantly.

The government projects Sihanoukville to be the sec­ond economic city through the development of tourism and the improvement of in­ternational trade facilities. While acknowledging the presence of COVID-19 can dampen trade volume, Mr Simsorya said the govern­ment and all stakeholders have been expanding efforts to keep the Kingdom’s econ­omy stable.

“We are not sure how long before the pandemic is eliminated, however, we still hope that one day, Sihanoukville will become a highly-developed city and possibly the ‘next Hong Kong’ with the full support of our citizens,” he said. Ms Chey Sokunthea, PAS mar­keting director, likewise said it is business as usual at the port as PAS and Kobe-Osaka International Port Coopera­tion look into rolling out the first phase of the container terminal project. “We ex­pect over one million [TEU] containers will be coming through Sihanoukville Au­tonomous Port annually by 2024,” she said.

The government has des­ignated the port as an in­dustrial development zone, posing great potential in expanding trade between Cambodia and other coun­tries in ASEAN region, Asia- Pacific rim and the rest of the world.

The PAS in 2017 entered into an IPO to further im­prove its business prospects, netting nearly $27 million for the purchase of land and equipment for expansion of Cambodia’s imports or ex­ports transported by sea, 90 percent go through the Siha­noukville port.

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