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Guests look at a model of the Kerry Worldbridge Special Economic Zone at its opening yesterday outside of Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Bonded warehouse opens its doors

Local logistics firm Kerry Worldbridge officially launched its customs bonded warehouse yesterday, allowing firms to import and store materials in the facility without paying duties and taxes provided the final product is re-exported.

Located just south of the capital, the warehouse is part of the first stage of the company’s special economic zone (SEZ) development, which is expected to be completed in three stages covering 63 hectares at a total cost of $100 million.

Sear Rithy, chairman of Kerry Worldbridge Logistics, said during the facility’s inauguration that the company is expecting at least $300 million investment in the SEZ, though no official contracts have been signed yet. The company previously signed a memorandum of understand with German firm InSite Bavaria, to promote and attract high technology manufacturing to the SEZ.

“Our company strongly believes that this special economic zone and customs bonded warehouse will allow us to attract direct investments from foreign countries and increase their interest in investing in other fields in Cambodia,” Rithy said. “According to our projections, the flow of investment should be at least $300 million.”

Rithy said Kerry Worldbridge expects the SEZ will generate between 20,000 to 25,000 jobs once it is in full operation. Charles Esterhoy, chief operations officer of the Kerry Worldbridge SEZ, said after the event that the underlying goal of the zone is to attract high-level manufacturing, labelled as “Industry 4.0”. The company hopes to help Cambodia leapfrog stages of industrial evolutionary chain by introducing the highest level of technological manufacturing capacity to the Kingdom.

“We’ve all heard that 30 percent of garment jobs are going to be lost to robots [in Cambodia], that is the garment industry moving towards what is called Industry 3.0, which is automation,” he said.

“What we are doing is skipping Industry 3.0, and we will go straight to Industry 4.0, which is cyber-physical manufacturing, and is already in place in leading industrial nations like Japan or Germany.”

Esterhoy noted that in order for Cambodia to absorb such a high level of manufacturing, it will need to significantly improve the vocational skills of its workforce. He says Kerry Worldbridge’s MoU with InSite Bavaria includes providing training for workers while the firm also has an agreement with the National Polytechnic Institute of Cambodia (NPIC) to increase vocational training.

“In order to attract investment from German, EU or Japanese high tech manufacturers, we have to change vocational skills levels,” he said.“Cambodia is perfect for this because you have a relatively small and young population, and they understand technology.”

Figures from the Ministry of Economy and Finance showed that trade volume for SEZs in Cambodia grew by 1.2 percent last year, reaching 2.83 billion for both imports and exports.

George Yong Boon Yeo, president of the Kerry Group and CEO of Kerry Logistics, said that the new facilities and the customs bonded warehouse would satisfy a growing need for sophisticated logistics solutions in Cambodia.

“Kerry Logistics Network and our local partner Worldbridge Group . . . are working together to improve logistics in the Kingdom,” he said.

“This will help lower costs and make Cambodia an even more attractive country for investment.”

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