Agro-industrial tycoon Mong Reththy plans to expand his private port to handle bigger ships and containerised cargoes, increasing potential competition with the country’s principal port in Sihanoukville.
“We got approval from the government already to expand the port and now we are studying the location,” Reththy said yesterday. “We want to upgrade it to handle container shipments.”
Oknha Mong Port, also known as Keo Phos Port, is located in Koh Kong province about 45 kilometres north of Sihanoukville. The 27-hectare port became Cambodia’s first privately owned seaport when it began operations in 2004, and is now operated as part of a joint venture with Thai conglomerate TCC Group.
Oknha Mong Port’s 1-kilometre-long concrete berth currently serves mostly break-bulk vessels under 5,000 tonnes on account of its shallow 5-metre draft. However, Reththy plans to expand the port while deepening the navigation channel to allow the passage of much larger container vessels.
“In order to handle container ships, the port must be renovated and the channel deepened to eight metres, which will allow it to handle container vessels up to 10,000 tonnes,” he said, while declining to disclose investment cost estimates.
A Ministry of Transport official confirmed the government approved the port’s proposed expansion in August 2015, but has yet to see a master plan.
Meanwhile, officials at nearby Sihanoukville Autonomous Port (SAP), which handled over 390,000 TEUs last year, shrugged off the threat of competition.
SAP director Lou Kim Chhun said the private port’s addition of container-handling facilities would give shipping firms more options, which is good for the economy as a whole.
“Once we have a new container port it will create a rival to our port [in Sihanoukville,]” he said.“Then we will compete on price, service and quality.”
SAP, however, is currently in the midst of its own expansion. Construction will increase the port’s draft from the existing 8.5 metres to 13.5 metres, and expand its handling capacity to 700,000 TEUs by 2020.
Nhiev Kol, general manager of container shipping company CMA-CGM (Cambodia) Co Ltd, said the company currently utilises Sihanoukville Port but might consider Oknha Mong Port for some shipments after its expansion.
“We need to consider the capacity of the port and its standard for handling our ships,” Kol said. “If the tariff, service and quality are good, we would welcome using the [private] port.”