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Freight volumes climb at Sihanoukville port

Report shows 13pc gain in first two months over low ’09 figure

FREIGHT volumes through Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s largest port, climbed an annualised 13.35 percent in the first two months, a sign that the facility is recovering from last year’s slump, but against the lowest base in recent years at the start of 2009 when the economic crisis hit the Kingdom.

Figures obtained by the Post Wednesday showed inbound volumes were up 15.5 percent over the same period as outbound rose 3.72 percent. Total volumes in January and February climbed to 325,368 tonnes from 287.059 a year ago.

Total revenue during the period rose by 1.96 percent to US$3.59 million from $3.67 million in the first two months of 2009, the figures showed.

Sihanoukville Autonomous Port Deputy Director General Ma Sun Hout said Wednesday that the recovery was due to rising exports while imports of coal, cars, raw materials for the garment sector and cement, among other items, also picked up in January and February.

“We cannot presume that this year’s shipment situation will be good, or bad, because we are still in the first quarter,” he said.

Maersk, owner of the world’s largest shipping-container line, which also operates in the Kingdom, said in a financial report on March 4 that it estimates a “modest” profit this year following its first annual loss for at least 60 years in 2009.

Analysts have said that this year the shipping industry is likely to see a recovery, but that the climate will likely remain challenging.

Sihanoukville Port has seen volumes cannabalised by the smaller Phnom Penh port since the opening of Vietnam’s Cai Mep deepwater port at the mouth of the Mekong Delta, which cuts shipping times from Cambodian to North America by a few days.

Sihanoukville, given its coastal location and the geography of the region, does not benefit from the Vietnamese facility, which was partly responsible for a 75 percent annualised rise in shipments through Phnom Penh in January.

So Nguon, director of the Kingdom’s largest overland logistics firm, So Nguon Group, said Wednesday that he had seen a 20-percent rise in volumes at his operation this year.

“Productivity is getting better,” he said, adding that overland traffic between Sihanoukville and the capital was mostly textiles and raw materials for Cambodia’s biggest export industry – garments.

In 2009, Sihanoukville Autonomous Port – which is due to issue an initial public offering on Cambodia’s forthcoming stock exchange at the end of the year – saw volumes slide about 9 percent to 1,874 million tonnes as the garment sector recorded a 15.8 percent downturn in exports.

“We expect that freight shipped through this port will increase at least 2 percent [this year],” said Ma Sun Hout.

Phnom Penh port on January 27 projected a 26-percent rise in container traffic for this year.

Sihanoukville port remains heavily dependent on a US recovery to sustain a rebound, added Ma Sun Hout, given that 70 percent of freight through the facility is linked to Cambodia’s largest export market.

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