Cambodia starts $1bn job to quadruple its main port’s capacity

Hun Sen speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony yesterday (Sihanoukville Autonomous Port)
Work started this week on a Japanese-financed container terminal at Cambodia’s Sihanoukville Autonomous Port in a bid to transform the country’s small main seaport into a Southeast Asian hub by 2029.

Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said the project would help Cambodia take advantage of its own economic growth and rising international trade.

The port’s shallow channel – 9.2m deep – now prevents it from receiving 82% of container ships. It will be dredged to a new depth of 14.5m in the project’s first phase.

“The expansion project will allow large container ships to dock at the port and significantly reduce ocean freight costs for Cambodia,” he said. “It will help attract investors and accelerate our economic development.”

The expansion will be carried out in three phases.

The first will include the renovation of the port’s general cargo terminal into a 253m-long container terminal able to handle ships carrying 4,000 TEUs (20ft-equivalent units). This is expected to cost $275m and be completed by 2026.

The second phase will involve the construction of a terminal that will be 400m long with a channel depth of 16.5m. This will start in 2025 and end in 2028. The third phase will begin in 2026 and end in 2029, and will cost around $700m.

As part of the work, the port’s equipment will be modernised and automated.

The result is that the capacity will expand from 700,000 TEUs a year to 1.4 million by 2026 and 2.6 million by 2029.

Japan is providing a $760m concessional loan for the project, and the rest will be paid for by Phnom Penh.

Ueno Atsushi, Japan’s Ambassador to Cambodia, said that his government would continue to help with the port’s development, which may involve turning it into a free port with transport links to a special economic zone.

This still makes Sihanoukville a smallish port by regional standards. Singapore’s capacity is 37 million TEU and Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia all have ports larger than 7 million. But it will put Cambodia on the shipping map in a way it was not before.

As well as the expansion of Sihanoukville, Cambodia is building a $1.5bn port and logistics centre in the southwest of the country. This 600ha scheme in Kampot province is being undertaken by a joint venture between the Shanghai Construction Group and the China Road and Bridge Corporation (see further reading).

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