The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will provide technical assistance to improve the flow of transnational shipments at checkpoints along Cambodia’s borders with Vietnam and Thailand where current facilities and procedures lead to traffic congestion and long delays.
Ministry of Public Works and Transport spokesman Wasim Sorya told The Post on January 7 that JICA had initiated a study of cross-border logistics, completing first-phase planning for the project and preliminary consultations with the government.
A second phase entailing on-site surveys is now underway. Units from the JICA working group have been deployed to study conditions at each border while other units are tasked with devising and implementing strategies for the modernisation of Cambodia’s commercial truck fleet and a “green logistics plan,” Sorya said.
He explained that normal cross-border traffic was still closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but a restricted flow of commercial goods remains permitted. An unintended consequence of the extra restrictions, however, has been excessive congestion of vehicles and goods seeking to cross the borders, particularly at the Bavet-Moc Bai station at the Vietnamese border.
According to Sorya, after JICA completes its research, the organisation will furnish the government with a final report containing specific recommendations for widening roads, constructing buildings, and expanding parking capacity as well as improving border management by expanding operational hours and streamlining crossing procedures and document processing.
He added that JICA’s project was slated to continue for two and a half years, but due to the outbreak of Covid-19 operations were delayed for six months and are just now beginning.
The ministry expects the JICA study to be completed as planned, but given ongoing complications from the pandemic it was uncertain how much would be achieved.
On January 6, the ministry’s General Department of Transport deputy director-general Kong Sophal accompanied JICA team members on inspections of the Banteay Chakrei, Prey Vor-Binh Hiep and Bavet checkpoints along the border with Vietnam.
Sophal noted that JICA’s technical expertise could help to increase the efficiency of cross-border transport, a key aspect of implementing their comprehensive logistics plan.
He said the ministry was considering options to better facilitate the movement of goods at border stations while still preventing the spread of Covid-19 and they welcomed JICA’s assistance.
Cambodia Logistics Association president Sin Chanthy acknowledged that JICA had launched the project to improve the Cambodia-Vietnam border some time ago but progress had just begun.
He said the lanes at the Bavet-Moc Bai border checkpoint were too narrow for trucks, making them a continuous obstacle to smooth cross-border transport.
Due to the pandemic, new restrictions pertaining to the control of vehicles and changing of drivers have further slowed down delivery of goods and forced vehicles to remain parked for long durations, resulting in queues of hundreds of vehicles stretching more than a kilometre.
“The JICA working group is drawing up plans to reduce border congestion. This is an important issue, and the results of their study should help to improve efficiency at the border, facilitating greater transport volumes,” Chanthy said.