The Sihanoukville Autonomous Port (PAS) is poised to become a significant asset for the national economy, offering benefits not only to the residents of Preah Sihanouk province but to the entire country. 

Prime Minister Hun Manet called on government officials responsible for the project to accelerate the first phase of the port’s expansion, with the goal of completing it by the end of 2023.

At the inauguration ceremony of National Road (NR) 5 on November 22, Manet stated that PAS, serving as a central transit point for cargo ships from various countries, will become a port of significant potential in the future, following the expansion of its deep-water capabilities.

“I recently spoke with the Japanese ambassador [Atsushi Ueno] about the SAP being a historical port. Cambodia’s geographic location, situated between Laem Chabang Port in Chonburi province, Thailand and a Vietnamese port, makes it a crucial transit point for goods,” he said.

“Currently, we face a challenge as the water depth and capacity of our port is just over eight meters. This limits us to accommodating only 18 per cent of the cargo ships that visit, while the other 82 per cent must transfer to other ports. This results in high transportation costs. We are grateful for the Japanese loan project we’ve received, and we appreciate the Japanese government’s support in expanding this strategic port,” he explained.

However, according to the prime minister, the first phase of the deep-sea port expansion project is not yet complete. Citing a report from Lou Kim Chhun, the government delegate serving as chairman and CEO of SAP, he noted that there are still some obstacles.

“Considering the current challenges, I urge [deputy prime minister and first vice-president of the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC)] Sun Chanthol to guarantee the project’s completion by the end of the year. This is particularly significant as 2023 commemorates the 70th anniversary of Cambodia-Japan relations. The opening of the road and port will serve as a symbolic milestone in this regard,” he said.

Kim Chhun told the media mid-year about the port’s ongoing developments. These include expanding the container area and deepening the sea to accommodate the growth of international trade and fulfil plans allowing all cargo ships to dock.

“By 2026, SAP is expected to match the capacities of other regional ports, accommodating about 93 per cent of regional cargo ships. This will reduce shipping costs by approximately $200, enhancing national trade competition and attracting more investment to Cambodia,” he stated.

He expressed optimism that the ability of all cargo ships to dock at PAS will significantly reduce sea shipping costs, thereby boosting national trade competition and potentially increasing economic profits by hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

According to his estimates, the economic benefit could exceed $350 million per year.

Sin Chanthy, president of the Cambodia Logistics Association (CLA), stated on November 22 that approximately 70 per cent of water transport in the country involves PAS, underlining the port’s importance for the nation’s trade with other regional and global partners.

He noted that because the PAS is not yet a deep-sea port, it cannot accommodate certain large ships, which are then forced to dock at neighbouring wharves. Consequently, once the port enhances its depth capacity, it will become more convenient and capable of accommodating these larger vessels.

“Certainly, with the anticipated development and completion of the port infrastructure in the coming years, we expect Cambodia’s trade with other countries to become even more active,” he said.

According to PAS, the new container terminal’s phase one is valued at $203 million. It features a length of 350 metres and a depth of 14.5 metres, enabling access for container vessels with a capacity of up to 4,000 TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) or 60,000 DWT (Deadweight Tonnage).

The terminal is projected to be operational by mid-2026, elevating the Kingdom’s maritime transport to a level comparable with its neighbours, with an annual capacity of 450,000 TEUs, as per PAS.