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Prek Ambel eyed for Bassac sea link

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A boat transports barrels of fuel along the Mekong River in Phnom Penh on June 28. Heng Chivoan

Prek Ambel eyed for Bassac sea link

Cambodia is pushing to complete a study on the feasibility of using southeastern Kandal province’s Prek Ambel village as the starting point for the Bassac River waterway link to the sea in Kep province.

The accompanying Bassac River Navigation and Logistics System (“BRNLS”) project aims to provide a viable and efficient alternative for waterway passenger and freight traffic to enter and exit the Kingdom, without passing through Vietnam, that reduces transportation and logistics costs.

The Bassac River is a distributary of the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers that starts in Phnom Penh and flows south to Kandal’s Loeuk Dek district, crossing the border into Vietnam. The Kingdom largely relies on the Ka’am Samnor gate on the Mekong for international transport via waterways.

An expert team comprising Ministry of Public Works and Transport officials and representatives of Chinese state-backed China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) has been conducting a series of preliminary studies on the BRNLS, results of which have yet to be submitted to the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) for review.

Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol on July 15 had a working meeting with a CRBC delegation on the project, according to a statement issued by his ministry later in the day.

Speaking to the delegation, Chanthol underscored the importance of the BRNLS for inland waterway transport in Cambodia, saying that all associated feasibility studies must be comprehensive and submitted to an inter-ministerial committee for discussion before being forwarded to the RGC for consideration.

“This international study is needed to find investment partners amongst development partners and companies, since the project will not only benefit the Cambodian people, but also the countries in the region and around the world as well,” he said in the statement.

Mak Sideth, ministry spokesman and director-general for Waterway, Marine Transport and Port, told The Post that the ongoing “second-phase” study for the BRNLS focuses on the feasibility of using Prek Ambel village, Prek Ambel commune, Sa’ang district, Kandal as the starting point of the waterlink which is to traverse southwest to the sea in Kep.

Of note, there is a Bassac River distributary in Prek Ambel village at GPS coordinates (11.243N, 105.026E) that flows southwest.

Citing the preliminary nature of the studies, Sideth admitted that he could not provide a good cost estimate for the BRNLS, but remarked that the project would considerably trim transportation costs, especially those associated with moving passengers and freight through Vietnam.

Logistics and Supply Chain Business Association in Cambodia (Loscba) president Chea Chandara said that if the BRNLS materialises, leading to the building of new waterways and expansion of existing ones, the project would be among the greatest achievements in Cambodian transportation history.

He commented that waterway imports bound for Cambodia, especially those from China, often enter via Vietnam’s Cat Lai and Cai Mep ports and are subsequently trucked into the Kingdom.

A waterway link between Phnom Penh and Kep or Kampot provinces via the Bassac River would enable the country to export goods without involving Vietnamese ports, he said.

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