KOMPONG SOM-Shell Cambodia officially kicked off a U.S. $5 million oil depot rehabilitation
project in this port city on May 1. Located on the site of Cambodia's now-dilapidated
and unusable oil refinery, oil storage tanks with a capacity of 15,000 tons, which
have not been used for more than two decades, will be restored to working order.
The project is expected to be completed in five months.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Roger Ottenheym, Shell Cambodia's general manager
said, "This is the first important step of many more to follow."
Ottenheym noted that Shell was one of the first major corporations to establish a
presence in Cambodia, setting up operations here in the 1920s, and also one of the
first to return to the country after the last two decades of civil war. The current
venture is 60 percent owned by Royal Dutch Shell with the remaining 40 percent held
by Shell U.K.
"Many people ask me 'Why start a project in a political situation that is still
very difficult?'," said Ottenheym. "I think it is part of the responsibility
of bigger corporations to start early even when the situation is uncertain."
"We can only hope that other corporations will follow our example and help develop
Cambodia," he added.
Half of shell's U.S. $5 million investment will be used for firefighting and fire
prevention equipment at the depot site, including construction of a safety wall around
the tanks with monitoring equipment that meets international standards.
The rehabilitation work is being undertaken by Chiyoda Singapore. An engineering
crew of 50 has arrived from the island state and is being supplemented by 50 Cambodians
The refinery/storage complex is tucked away at the sleepy top of a bay whose bottom
serves as the major port of Sihanoukville, which currently presents a relatively
bright bustling face with containers stacked all over the place.
In contrast, the refinery is a sad, rusting reminder of the devastation wrought on
the country in the last twenty years.
The original refinery, Cambodia's first, was constructed next to snowy white beaches
in 1968. It worked for a while but was shut down after a Khmer Rouge attack in l972.
When Pol Pot took over the Chinese came in and started to build another one right
next to the first which was already beginning to rust back then.
Construction didn't get far along before the Chinese had to flee, leaving another
few hundred tons of steel to begin the oxidation process.
Ten rainy seasons later, Shell came to Phnom Penh in l989. The initial trip led to
negotiations with the SOC's Compagnie Kampuchea des Carburants and a signing of the
depot rehabilitation contract in Jan. 93.
The Shell project has had to dig up and push aside what look like ten- ton, rust-colored
penicillin capsules left by the Chinese, seven of which are now waiting patiently
to be sold for scrap.
The depot was constructed with an original storage capacity of 100,000 tons, although
many of the larger tanks are beyond repair according to Ottenheym. When the Shell
project is completed the company will begin importing fuel for trucks and cars which
they will market for use throughout the country.