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More water transport needed

Cambodia's waterways go largely unused for domestic shipping, a factor hurting the competitveness of the country’s logistics and agriculture sectors, experts said yesterday.

Cambodia lost ground this year in a measure of logistics performance.

Twenty countries, many of them African nations such as Benin and Malawi, jumped ahead of Cambodia on the logistics performance index (LPI), landing the Kingdom 101th among 155 countries, the bank’s Connecting to Complete report showed.

Floods impair and destory many of the Kingdom’s roads during the rainy season, while overloaded trucks damage highways year-round, Phnom Penh Autonomous Port deputy director general Eng Vengsun said yesterday.

As rice millers and exporters push toward the 1 million-tonne rice goal set for 2015, demand for waterway access has markedly increased, he said.

“Can you imagine how we are going to get such a quantity of rice from the provinces to Phnom Penh? I think the answer is on the water,” Eng Vengsun said.

In peninsular Southeast Asia, Cambodia sits between the more developed economies and those known for transport disconnectivity.

Thailand and Vietnam ranked 38th and 53rd on the LPI respectively, while Laos and Myanmar came in at 109th and 129th.

To date, low water levels during the dry season have stalled progress on installing more inland ports on the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers, Eng Vengsun added.

Development in waterway transport would require substantial upfront capital from the private sector to conduct feasibility tests on potential routes for barges, which could materialise next year, said David Van, senior manager of business development at Mekong Oryza Trading Co Ltd.

To contact the reporter on this story: Don Weinland at don.weinland@phnompenhpost.com

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