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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Taiwan-bound vessel’s sand ‘exempt from ban’

A ship called Deryoung Sunflower was spotted loading sand in late April off the coast of Sihanoukville. LY RAKSMEY/MOTHER NATURE
A ship called Deryoung Sunflower was spotted loading sand in late April off the coast of Sihanoukville. Ly Raksmey/Mother Nature

Taiwan-bound vessel’s sand ‘exempt from ban’

Taiwan officials yesterday confirmed that a ship by the name of Deryoung Sunflower – a vessel that this week appeared in a viral video released by NGO Mother Nature claiming that it was loaded with sand for export despite a ban – is expected to arrive today at Taiwan’s Port of Taichung.

However, the officials said, the ship is actually carrying silica sand, which the Cambodian Ministry of Mines and Energy says is not subject to the ban.

Irene Tang, of the Port of Taichung, told The Post that the ship’s last registered port is in Cambodia and that it was carrying silica sand. The Post could not confirm what kind of sand a second ship, identified by Mother Nature as being named Ocean Beauty, was carrying.

The Ministry of Mines and Energy last November banned sand exports after controversy arose from huge discrepancies between Cambodia’s recorded sand exports and Singapore’s recorded sand imports from the Kingdom.

In the video, which the group said was taken on April 29, Mother Nature showed the Deryoung Sunflower being loaded with white sand.

Meng Saktheara, spokesman for the Ministry of Mines and Energy, said after the video was released that it was “very likely” the ship was loaded with silica sand, which is exempt from the ban. Silica sand is mined on land, he added, rather than pumped from the sea, and is used for industrial purposes like for making glass.

Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, a founder of Mother Nature, said that when the government banned sand exports it made “no allusion whatsoever to exceptions” to the ban.

“For them to now say that silica sand can continue being exported is nothing but a pathetic lie that no one is going to believe,” he wrote in an email.

When asked what led Mother Nature to believe sea sand was being loaded on the ship, he called distinction between types of sand “totally irrelevant”.

He added his NGO would continue its investigation into whether dredged sea sand was still being illegally exported.

Ministry officials declined to comment yesterday, but said the ministry will release the findings of its investigation into the case today.

Two companies – Mong Reththy Group Co Ltd and Silica Services Cambodge – are licensed and had recent approval for exports of silica sand, although the locations of departure and the names of the boats did not match those of Ocean Beauty and the Deryoung Sunflower.

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