They say the Kingdom can do little to monitor suspicious ships offshore or assist in the event of an environmental accident.
A ship used for sand dredging is moored off the coast of Cambodia in this file photograph.
A LEADING official at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port has called on the government to establish a coast guard unit to patrol the coast, protect security and the environment, and assist at sea.
May Marith, the director of the Harbourmaster's Department at the port, said that neighbouring countries had a coast guard service to maintain
security, check on suspect ships, investigate oil spills and look out for smuggling and piracy.
Last week, he said, his Vessel Traffic Management System (VTMS) had spotted a ship 30 kilometres from the port, but he was unable to find out anything about it, including what it was doing there.
"We saw that this ship was anchored in the same place for three or four days," he said, "but we had no way of inspecting it because it was too far away. I would have wanted to check it, but we couldn't afford the expense of doing so - such as the cost of fuel".
He said the rumour at the port was that the ship was transporting sand from Cambodia to other countries. A spate of illegal dredging operations has been reported off the south coast in recent months.
Sboang Sarath, the provincial governor of Preah Sihanouk province, said that as far as he knew the Customs Department had set up a task force to keep an eye on smuggling activity at sea. And he said that the navy was on a government committee to monitor security on the ocean. But he agreed the country had no way of removing oil from the sea in the event of a spill.
An officer at the naval base in Ream said there was no piracy in Cambodian waters, which are generally considered safe. But the officer, who declined to be named, agreed that a skilled coast guard unit would be useful in the event of an oil spill. He said Ream Naval Base was responsible for security at sea and cooperated with Vietnam and Thailand in fulfilling its responsibilities.
Jane Chan Git Yin, associate research fellow with the Maritime Security Program at S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said no cases of piracy were reported in Cambodian waters last year. The annual International Maritime Bureau's Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships report listed Indonesian waters as the third most dangerous in the world, with 28 cases reported.