The search is still on for a contractor to expand and deepen the Kampot International Tourism Port’s waterway and deliver additional enhancements allowing safe access for larger vessels, nearly a year after the main construction work on the 4.25ha site was completed on June 30, 2022.

This is according to Kampot provincial deputy governor Ung Chhay, who affirmed that the port would not be formally opened until the waterway job is completed.

The Kampot International Tourism Port is located in Chum Kriel village and commune, Teuk Chhou district about 6km southeast of Kampot town, along the Dang Prek estuary of the Kampot river which flows into Kampot bay (GPS coordinates 10.569N, 104.221E).

The port broke ground on August 8, 2018 and was built at a cost of $9.27 million, co-financed by the Asian Development Bank and the government, according to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

Speaking to The Post on May 30, Chhay enthused that the port would receive shiploads of overseas visitors, spurring economic growth. “At the moment, we’re looking for partners and funding sources to expand and deepen the canal,” he reiterated.

Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia Chapter chairman Thourn Sinan expressed confidence in the port’s ability to boost the number of foreign tourists to the Kingdom, especially those from the region, and noted that ports in general are quite important and can generate economic benefits across the board.

“We’re sure the government will do what it can to expedite plans to open the Kampot International Tourism Port as soon as feasible.

“Once operational, the port will boost tourist inflows from neighbouring countries – namely Vietnam and Thailand,” he said, remarking that most international ship passengers are “elderly and wealthy”.

The ministry says it identifies the Kampot International Tourism Port as an “important new international gateway”.

Meanwhile, the hotly anticipated Bassac-Kep river navigation and logistics system, a first-of-its-kind waterway transportation project in Cambodia, has been named the “Funan Techo Canal”, according to the minutes of a May 19 meeting of the Council of Ministers.

The meeting went over the latest developments and details of the project. The minutes recapped that a feasibility study for the project was conducted over a 26-month period, and that the undertaking will have an estimated cost of $1.7 billion, taking four years to complete.

The 180km waterway will connect Prek Takeo of the Mekong River System to the Prek Ta Ek and Prek Ta Hing of the Bassac River System, and to Kep province, crossing Kandal, Takeo and Kampot provinces.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, a total of 17,525 international visitors sailed into Cambodia in the first quarter of 2023, an 8.6-fold year-on-year increase from 2,036, but still 26.38 per cent of the 66,422 recorded during the corresponding three-month period in 2019.

Waterway arrivals accounted for 1.36 per cent of the Kingdom’s 1,291,539 total international visitors for the January-March period – which was up 709.51 per cent from 159,546 in the year-ago period, but down 31.22 per cent from 1,877,853 in the same time of 2019.

By comparison, 61.36 per cent and 37.29 per cent of the total international visitors in the first quarter entered overland or via air, respectively.

Cambodia welcomed 2,276,626 international visitors in 2022, marking a 65.56 per cent fall from the all-time high of 6,610,592 in 2019, but an 11.59-fold increase against 2021. Of the total, 17,866 (0.78%) arrived via waterways, compared to 156,849 (2.37%) in 2019.

A visitor in the context of these statistics is a person travelling to the Kingdom, “staying at least overnight and not exceeding a specific period for leisure, recreation, business and other legal tourism purposes; and not relevant to the purpose of permanent residence or any remunerated activities”, as defined by the ministry.