Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Have steel, will float

Have steel, will float

Have steel, will float

This steel boat under construction on the riverbank at Phnom Penh's ferry port on

the west bank of the Tonle Sap is destined to be a ferry on the Phnom Penh-Arayksat

route.

It should be ready for launching before Khmer New Year on April 13.

It is being built by Nhar Nhean for ferry operator Van Ramon, 43, who manages the

ferry port in partnership with Sim Ann, Commune Chief at Anhaong (near Arayksat).

Nhean, 46, has constructed 20 steel ferries since 1979.

This new ferry will sail on the Phnom Penh-Arayksat route. Ramon and Ann both operate

wooden ferries on this run.

The boat is 26 meters long, 6 meters wide, draws 1.30 meters empty and will carry

up to100 tons. It will be powered by a 310 hp (230kW) Mitsubishi engine.

Ramon is spending $25,000 on this ferry and says it will last at least 20 years;

a wooden ferry costs $20,000 and lasts only three years. He hopes to recover the

capital cost in two years.

He and Ann successfully tendered to the government for the port operating lease from

January 2004 till December 2005, with a price of 160 million riel ($40,000) a year.

He said the port grosses from 350,000 to 400,000 riel a day and the profit from that

is between 50,000 and 100,000 riel.

If they fail to get the port lease next time, Ramon says he will use his ferry as

a bulk sand carrier or turn it into a floating apartment for his family.

Phnom Penh-Arayksat (near Wat Phnom area) is one of five local ferry ports each used

by two ferries servicing different destinations on the Tonle Sap, Mekong and Bassac

rivers. They operate hourly between 4 am and 9pm. Phnom Penh-Arayksat is the only

port which still has only wooden vessels; one of these is leased by Ramon, the other

is owned by Sim Ann.

"Ferries have traditionally been made from wood because steel was not available,"

Ramon said. "Steel makes a stronger, safer ferry that will last 20 years without

worry about structural failure."

He spent $17,000 purchasing 6mm thick steel plate and structural members from many

markets in Phnom Penh, costing $500-600 per ton.

There will be a small traditional ceremony to celebrate the completion and launching

of the new ferry. - by Sam Rith

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