The TS11 multi-purpose port terminal on the Tonle Sap River in northern Phnom Penh is 85 per cent complete and is on track to be launched on July 1, with four more terminals to be opened by November, according to transport minister Sun Chanthol on April 25.

One of the seven satellite terminals – existing or under-development – under the management of state-run Phnom Penh Autonomous Port’s (PPAP), TS11 is expected to significantly reduce the times and costs associated with shipping and receiving goods to and from Cambodia’s provinces.

The minister told reporters on April 25 that the five under-construction terminals would be opened within “three or four months” following the launch of TS11 – also known as Kilometre 6 Terminal.

Chanthol listed these as Prek Anhchanh and Prek Kdam ports in Kandal province just north of the capital; Tonle Bet Port in Kampong Cham; Chhlong Port in Kratie; and Kampong Chhnang Port in the namesake province.

Adding these five to TS11 and the existing LM17 container terminal – in Kandal Loeu village, Banteay Dek commune of Kandal’s Kien Svay district – brings the total to seven.

The minister said TS11 would be able to handle “60,000 to 90,000” twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), reduce land freight traffic and create jobs for locals.

A TEU is an inexact unit of cargo capacity used in the shipping industry roughly equivalent to a container with internal dimensions measuring about 20 feet long, eight feet wide and 8.5 feet tall, or a volume roughly 38.5 cubic metres.

Chanthol underscored that Cambodia had historically pushed for the adoption of as much waterway transport as possible, comparing this to modern day China which he said has substantially ratcheted up freight traffic, trade and tourism using waterborne modes of transportation.

The Kingdom’s neighbours too have leveraged their waterways to bolster economic development, he said.

“Upstream countries use waters for their development and the downstream countries also use waters for their development.

“We too have the ability to use the Mekong River to transport goods. We’ve built seven satellite terminals to facilitate the accumulation of goods from all over our country at the port of Phnom Penh, to sell abroad and distribute in the domestic market,” Chanthol said.

Royal Academy of Cambodia economics researcher Ky Sereyvath told The Post that increased use of waterways as a transport mode would not just trim associated costs, but also reduce accidents.

He argued that long-term disuse has resulted in sections of the waterway system drying up, and made it easy for land grabbers to encroach on lands adjacent to canals and lakes.

Citing what he called Vietnam’s “successes” in its waterway transport plans as possible inspiration, Sereyvath said the Cambodian government’s visions to set up satellite terminals and transport systems along the Mekong River aim to provide the Kingdom with a competitive edge over neighbouring countries.

“Links in water systems, berthing arrangements and connections from the Mekong River to Kampot, Kep, Preah Sihanouk, Koh Kong and other areas are strategic transport considerations that will lower costs for the people of Cambodia and fortify their ability to compete,” he said.

Late last month, PPAP director-general Hei Bavy said high coronavirus vaccination rates in the region and further afield have developed a meaningful degree of herd immunity, easing the impact of Covid-19 and prompting countries to more widely resume economic activity. This, he said, will translate to increased container throughput at port terminals.

He said that annual container throughput at the terminals generally averages 15-18 per cent, recording 348,898 TEU last year, up by nearly 20.0 per cent from 290,857 TEUs in 2020, which followed a 3.49 increase over 2019.

Bavy added that PPAP has forecast a container throughput of 394,679 TEUs this year as Covid-19 tapers off, which would be a 13.12 per cent rise over 2021.