AEON Mall (Cambodia) Co Ltd’s first “multifunctional logistics business centre” is set to break ground early next month and start operations next year, in a special economic zone (SEZ) near Sihanoukville Autonomous Port (PAS), according to a port source with knowledge of the matter.

The shopping mall developer and operator has leased a plot of land about 3ha for 50 years to set up the centre, which will provide facilities for companies to store imported goods without paying duties before they clear customs.

Aeon Mall Cambodia affirmed in a statement that the centre would be open to other companies, to serve their warehousing and shipping needs.

PAS Project Management Unit administrative director Sok Kolchenda “Chenda” told The Post on January 11 that construction of the centre would be supported by the Japanese government and its development aid arm Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica).

He indicated that the centre would provide shipping services to other localities such as Phnom Penh, and that importers would not be required to pay customs duties until their goods have been delivered.

The centre will increase activity at the port, he said, noting that similar facilities exist in other ASEAN countries.

Chenda opined that Aeon’s newest project would provide a suitable model that may inspire at least a couple of companies to set up similar warehousing facilities by 2023.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng hailed the project as a noteworthy step for the local wholesale and retail sector, suggesting that ports and dry ports were fitting locations for such large import and export warehouses.

“Japanese investment companies are also preparing to build warehouses at airports to make it easier for companies that lack storage space to import goods,” he said.

Imports and exports will climb as Cambodia inks more free trade agreements, he said, highlighting that the presence of large warehouses would smooth commerce with other signatories.

Chenda said that the Japanese government had also announced a grant of 1.500 billion yen ($13 million) to Cambodia in mid-December, to provide PAS with forklifts.