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Gov’t wants ports ship shape

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Workers unload a container from a ship at the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port’s new cargo terminal in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district in January. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post

A draft of the first law to govern all the nation’s ports soon should be sent to the Council of Ministers for approval, officials said yesterday.

If passed, the law would mandate that all land and water ports register with the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, enact tariffs publicised by the government and equip themselves to handle waste disposal and accidental spillage, according to a copy of the draft law distributed at a workshop yesterday.

The law, whose drafting began in 2011, also would impose penalties against individuals collecting fees beyond the government tariffs or allowing foreign vessels entry without government permission, although the details of those penalties were still under discussion at yesterday’s workshop.    

“We notice growing numbers of private ports along the coast and the Mekong. We do not want anarchy, so we are drafting a law to manage all the ports in Cambodia,” Tram Iv Tek, minister of Public Works and Transport, said yesterday.

Coordinating port management would be important not only to ensure safety, security and environmental protection, but also to speed up Cambodia’s commerce and development as it prepares to join the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015, he added.

David Van, deputy secretary general at the Alliance of Rice Producers and Exporters of Cambodia, who has pushed for increased water-based transport to improve development, said whether the law expedited or hindered development depended on where the government set tariffs.

“At the moment, the government imposes a quite heavy levy onto any heavy shipping companies,” he said. “It’s an open secret that the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port charges double the neighbouring countries.”

Consequently, nearby private ports were taking much of the SAP’s potential business, he said. However, he added, it seemed authorities were beginning to understand the need to lower tariffs.

“If applied correctly, with lesser port charges, [the law] could offer incentives for transporters to call upon those official ports, which would definitely bring a lot more revenues to the government, and also allow the government to monitor trade more closely.”

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