A strengthening economy and increasing demands from both domestic and foreign markets have pushed trade growth in the Kingdom, further driving the shipping industry. Linehaul Express president Sin Chanthy, who also serves as secretary-general of Cambodia Freight Forwarders, founded his company in 2000 as a joint venture with partners from Thailand and Hong Kong to capitalise on that growth. Phnom Penh Post reporter Rann Reuy met with Sin Chanthy to discuss the sector in detail.
HONG MENEA /Phnom Penh Post
Linehaul Express president Sin Chanthy gestures during an interview with the Post.
Exporters often complain that shipping prices in Cambodia are higher than those in neighbouring countries. Is this true?
I always hear this, both in radio and print. But I think some of Cambodia’s shipping costs are relatively similar to those in nearby countries.
Compared with Vietnam, for instance, our price is 10 per cent higher. Vietnam’s shipping sector is busier than ours, so prices are cheaper.
The government issued a policy to help facilitate the export of one million tonnes of milled rice to international markets by 2015. What is your opinion on this move?
We appreciate the policy so much. The government has really made the paperwork easier. Before, we had to ask permission from places before our products were all-owed to be delivered.
Now, if we want to export milled rice, we just transport it to the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, which also helps make the price cheaper. In the past, if we wanted to export one container of milled rice, the fee was more than US$400, but now we can just transport to SAP. It’s too easy.
Have your firm’s profits decreased as a result of more competition in this sector?
Competition has indeed grown, but income decreases because the local market is not like markets in developed countries. Everything in our country is limited, both imported goods and consumers. Previously, one container could earn $100 in profit, but now the profit has dropped to $40. I think customers can save at least 15 per cent because of the competitive environment.
Are you worried about the competition?
I think all companies have to try hard, especially to train their staff to a professional standard. My company has been around for a while, so we’re not worried.
I think consumers are getting smarter and are looking for a company that has experience. For example, previously no one even knew about insurance, but now customers ask whether we guarantee or not. Shipping companies must have networks, and my company has contacts with nearly 200 countries worldwide.
How do you get that many network contacts?
I pay about 2,000 euros ($2,620) each year to be a member of the networks, and spend around $5,000 each year to cover the expenses of attending a meeting between the shipping units of those countries.
How has the shipping business in Cambodia changed from its early days?
My opinion is that has generally gotten easier. The opening of land routes with neighbouring countries and new air connections has made it much easier.
But some obstacles still exist, such as forms and letters that take three days to fill out and get approved when they should take a maximum of two days.