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A barge of gantry cranes arrives at Sihanoukville port earlier this week. Photo supplied
A barge of gantry cranes arrives at Sihanoukville port earlier this week. Photo supplied

New cranes to raise Sihanoukville port’s capacity

State-owned Sihanoukville Autonomous Port (SAP) received its first shipment of four new rubber-tyred gantry (RTG) cranes from Japan this week under a $22 million investment plan that aims to expand the seaport’s container throughput capacity by 80 percent, a port official said yesterday.

“We received our first shipment of RTG cranes and they will be used in the container yard to move containers off and on to trucks more quickly,” SAP chairman Lou Kim Chhun said yesterday.

“This is part of our goal to expand port capacity.”

He added that the expansion project was being financed by the port’s internal budget, and was not linked to a concurrent $80 million expansion plan financed by the Japanese government first announced in 2014.

According to Chhun, the four new RTG cranes would boost the port’s current handling capacity of 400,000 TEUs, or standard 20-foot (6 metre) equivalent container units, by 50 percent. Another two gantry cranes due to arrive from China by the end of the year will raise capacity even further, facilitating the loading and off-loading of containers on ships.

“The new machinery will increase the ports capacity to 700,000 TEUs,” he said. “This is a very important part of our commercial viability.”

SAP is Cambodia’s only deepwater seaport and accounts for approximately 65 percent of all container shipments. The number of containers passing through the port reached 390,000 in 2015, up 17 per cent compared to 2014, with the most recent data showing that gross throughput of cargo reached 2 million tonnes during the first half of 2016, an increase of 8 percent year-on-year increase.

Chhun said the port’s efficiency was stretched thin by peak weekend traffic and hindered by a lack of adequate machinery, causing costly delays. He said the new gantry cranes would allow ships to load and unload quicker, and that multiple cranes could be assigned according to the size and load of a ship.

“This will allow ships to load and unload in four hours if they choose, or more slowly if they are trying to save on fuel consumption and are not on a strict timeline,” he said.

The $80 million loan from the Japanese government was set to build a new 3-hectare cargo terminal, with a completion date for July of next year, as well as being used to develop a 330-metre-long quay and purchase a new set of gantry cranes. However, the port has said that it needs to raise funds from an initial public offering (IPO) to assure it can repay the Japanese soft loan.

Meanwhile, SAP officials met yesterday with representatives of Acleda Bank to discuss ongoing preparations for the company to list on the Cambodian Securities Exchange (CSX). The expected date of the IPO, first announced in mid-2015, has been pushed back until February next year as the company works to settle land titling and taxation issues.

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