Venerable Buddhist Monks,
Excellency Kozi Tanami, Deputy Governor of JBIC and delegation
Excellency Gotaro Ogawa, Ambassador of Japan to Cambodia
Officials and personnel of the Sihanoukville Port,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor and pleasure for me to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the urgent rehabilitation of the Sihanoukville Port under Japan’s concessional loans. On behalf of the Royal Government and on my own behalf, I take this opportunity to commend and thank the management and the personnel of the Sihanoukville Port, relevant government ministries and the authorities at all levels for their efforts to make this groundbreaking for the construction of the Sihanoukville Container Port possible.
I warmly welcome and thank in particular H.E. Kozi Tanami, JBIC Deputy Governor and delegation for their presence. I would appreciate it very much if you could convey the deep gratitude of the government and people of Cambodia to the government and people of Japan for their valuable contribution to the restoration and maintenance of peace, political stability, rehabilitation and development of Cambodia in general, and for the extension of US$40 million loans for the rehabilitation of the Sihanoukville Port for which we are launching a groundbreaking ceremony today.
The government and the people of Cambodia appreciate very much and will forever remember this with deep gratitude. As I have stated on many occasions, at present for Cambodia physical infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, ports, airports, power, telecommunications etc. represents a locomotive to pull economic growth. With economic growth we will be able to promote social development and poverty reduction in order to ensure social justice and sustainable development. Port is top priority for the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) as it contributes considerably to robust economic takeoff during the last 10 years. Moreover, the present economic progress necessitates more investments on port.
In particular, the Sihanoukville Port represents the most strategic gateway to underpin the growth of international trade, which is critical for pulling current and future economic growth. Poor performance of the port would have a negative impact on trade and investment in the country, thus engendering economic crisis. I am talking about the quality and value of services provided by all agencies at the Sihanoukville Port. This necessitates smooth operation and good cooperation between all agencies at the port. This is crucial for making this port “a strategic gateway” for economic and trade development in Cambodia and in the region. It is also capable of providing quality services at a reasonable price. Back in the 1960s the Sihanoukville Port was an important port for regional transit transport. According to the current estimates, with substantial increase in economic relations and trade in the region, there is a dramatic increase in transit transportation via the Sihanoukville Port. Therefore, Cambodia should grasp this opportunity and develop a new version for servicing transit transport and providing other services to vessels at the Sihanoukville Port. In this sense, I recommend the management of the Sihanoukville Port to expand its services to some extent and cooperate with relevant government ministries and bodies to prepare and cater to transit transportation.
To achieve this vision, the Royal Government continues to give priority to additional investments on the physical infrastructure of the port. The immediate priority is to expand the port by another 160 meters, in addition to the existing facilities of 240 meters. This project is currently undertaken by Penta Ocean under JBIC concessional loans. This extension will expand the port to 400 meters and is expected to cater to the projected increase in services for 2004-2005. Otherwise, the 240-meter long port will not be up to the task. I think that we will be able to finance this extension by using US$4 million Japanese loans left from the auctions for the construction of this port and the port’s own profit. I raised this with our Japanese friend and hope to definitely get your support. Apart from the expansion, the furnishing of loading and unloading equipment and other ancillary equipment is also important, therefore the government has paid much attention to this problem and is working with the Japanese friend to seek an additional assistance.
The Sihanoukville Port has experienced a quick growth. Since 1999 the volume of goods passed by the Sihanoukville Port has drastically increased. At present, the port exceeded the level in the 1960s. Moreover, we have projected that the port’s activities will increase much more in the medium to long term. Hence, we are required to think about rehabilitating the port and expanding it further to meet the need for services. In this context, I am confident that the construction of the Sihanoukville-container port responding to the above vision and improve the port’s infrastructure to the level of big ports in neighboring countries. It allows us to match up with the level of exports and imports of goods and the needs of each and every passenger. Sihanoukville will be changing very fast to become both a trading and tourist hub.
The Sihanoukville Port is an international port and cargo clearance is carried out by a number of agencies. Attracting more clients depends on the technical standards and how fast the cargo is cleared by the authorities. The companies using the services of the Sihanoukville Port have expressed some concerns, such as the high cost of transportation per container, long clearance and hidden costs, which are being investigated and addressed by the government. However, in order to increase the efficiency and the quality of the port I take this opportunity to make the following recommendations for all the government agencies operating at the port:
- Work closely to improve port management to the level of international standards in the era of globalization;
- All relevant authorities at the Sihanoukville Port, such as the customs, immigration police, Camcontrol and the port authority should cooperate to streamline unnecessary procedures in order to speed up cargo inspection and clearance to meet international standards;
- Continue to pay attention to the build up capacity of the staff and personnel of the port and relevant government agencies. This is crucial for strengthening the port competitiveness to cater to the clients.
Today’s groundbreaking ceremony is coincided with the International Labor Day May 1st, organized to commemorate the workers’ movement in 1886 in the United States aimed at improving working conditions and the life of workers and employees. The Kingdom of Cambodia joined the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 1969 and the government and the people of Cambodia have kept up with this Labor Day’s spirit. We celebrate the Labor Day on May 1st as the public holiday for all government civil servants, employees and workers.
In this regard, on behalf of the government and on my own behalf I take this opportunity to congratulate all workers of the port and Cambodian workers all over the country on the occasion of the 116th Labor Day. I wish appreciate very much the work that the Sihanoukville port’s workers have done to make this port a very profitable business, much more than the business plan. In this context, I sincerely commend the higher than expected financial performance of the port during the last few years. This is the testimony to the efforts deployed by the port’s management, officials and workers.
Once again, I deeply and sincerely thank the people and government of Japan for providing this invaluable assistance to the people and government of Cambodia for the urgent rehabilitation of the Sihanoukville Port. In conclusion, I extend to you all the five gems of Buddha wishes. I announce the groundbreaking for the construction of the container port. I thank you all for your kind attention.