The government has established an inter-ministerial commission to implement the long anticipated Bassac-Kep river navigation and logistics system, a first-of-its-kind waterway transportation project in Cambodia which has been named the “Funan Techo Canal”.

The commission will review and advise on procedures, legal framework and conduct an economic efficiency assessment to accelerate the development of Cambodia’s waterway transport sector.

A June 7 resolution, signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, consists of seven articles and includes a total of 37 officials, including 1 chairman, 2 vice chairmen and 1 permanent member, with the rest are members of the commission.

The body of the commission also includes the provincial governors and deputy governors of Kandal, Takeo, Kampot and Kep provinces, as well as officials from institutions.

Senior Minister Sun Chanthol, Minister of Public Works and Transport was appointed chairman, while Sok Chenda Sophea, Minister Delegate Attached to the Prime Minister and secretary-general of the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), and Vongsey Vissoth, Minister Delegate Attached to the Prime Minister, permanent secretary of state of the Ministry of Economy and Finance and will serve as vice-chairmen.

The commission will also propose investment forms for the Funan Techo Canal, which will link Prek Takeo of the Mekong River System to the sea at Kep province.

“It will accelerate the implementation of the Funan Techo Canal river navigation project to be finalised to contribute to accelerate the development of Cambodia’s inland waterway and maritime transport sectors to be more efficient, lower transportation costs, ensure the sustainability of national economic growth, and report on the results to the head of government,” said the resolution.

Transport minister Chanthol described the project as historic, telling the transport ministry’s recent annual meeting that the canal will reduce shipping distances, reduce costs and streamline procedures.

According to Chanthol, a two-year study was conducted by the General Department of Waterway-Maritime Transport and Ports, and determined no issues.

Chea Chandara, president of the Logistics and Supply Chain Business Association in Cambodia (LOSCBA), said the canal will make a significant contribution to improving the capacity of the Cambodian logistics sector.

“Once this project is launched, it will be an important part of enhancing our ability to export Cambodian goods. Waterway shipping is usually cheaper than land and air transport and the amount of goods transported by waterway is also large and does not cause damage to roads or traffic congestion,” he said.

According to the resolution, the commission may invite representatives from relevant ministries and institutions and other experts to participate in reviewing and advising, if necessary. It also has the authority to establish a technical secretariat to assist the commission to establish a number of sub-committees, as required.

The canal as approved by the Cabinet on May 19.