With ever-diversifying business interests, timber tycoon Try Pheap, who has been accused by Global Witness of running large-scale illegal timber operations in protected forest areas, plans on beginning construction of a $300 million international port located on the coastline of Kampot province later this year, a company spokesman confirmed yesterday.
The new port will be a joint development between Hong Kong-based Hutchison Port Holdings Limited (registered in the British Virgin Islands) after the two companies signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Monday.
According to Try Pheap’s assistant, Kheang Sochivorn, the port will be located on 50 of the 300 hectares of land the tycoon owns in the Teuk Chhou district of Kampot. The port will reach 3 kilometres into the sea at 15 metres deep, and is designed to be able to handle 20,000 tonnes of cargo with every shipment, including oil.
“This is a standard port that we have invested $300 million with our partners from Hong Kong who are experts in port construction,” he said, adding that Hutchison Port Holdings Limited operates nearly 40 ports across the world.
He explained that the economic benefits will boost the transportation and tourism sectors, while employing at least 1,000 people. According to Sochivorn, the port was given approval by the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), and that an environmental impact study had already been completed, judging that there would be no harm.
Soem Vuthear, director of Kampot’s provincial cabinet, confirmed that Try Pheap’s company, Try Pheap Group Co Ltd, had received approval for a port master plan last year.
Hak Sovanna, vice president of Kampot Chamber of Commerce, said the port will attract more investment to the province and will also become popular for tourists looking to visit from Sihanoukville.
“Transportation will flourish when construction is completed, since the hills and roads are not as developed or as comfortable as in Sihanoukville,” he said.
While the port will be able to import oil, Hann Kheing, managing director of the Cambodia Petrochemical Company (CPC), which is building Cambodia’s $2.3 billion landmark oil refinery in Kampot province, said the port would not be used for importing crude.
“The port will only import the finished products and will not be used for the refinery,” he said. He noted that a partial jetty had already been constructed at the port located between the Kampot Special Economic Zone and a neighbouring factory.
“I don’t know how many tonnes the port will be able to bring in seeing that off the coast of Kampot the water is only 12 metres deep,” he said, adding that to make it viable “the port will have to dredge extensively”.
When reached by email, Hutchison Port Holdings Limited’s corporate affairs office, said “we do not comment on our future port development plans”.
The company, which is listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX), gains most of its revenue from its facility in the Chinese manufacturing hub of Shenzhen.
According to its first-quarter financial earnings, the company posted a 26.5 per cent drop in net profit to $26 million compared to the same time last year, while revenue dropped by 6.7 per cent.