With five free trade agreements (FTAs) on the docket this year, Cambodia is bolstering its logistics network in anticipation of the deals.
To that end, last month the Prime Minister approved the immediate upgrade of the Stung Bot, Bavet and Poipet checkpoints.
Sopheavatey Sorn, director of logistics at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said the Bavet International Checkpoint with Vietnam will expand from four lanes to six lanes within the next six months, while the Poipet International Checkpoint will expand from four lanes from two.
“We are aware that trucks have to wait days to cross the border despite the short distance, particularly at the Bavet International Checkpoint,” said Sorn.
She added that the Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville Expressway is currently 35 percent complete and scheduled to be finished by August 2022, nearly one year ahead of schedule.
“This is a very strategic route in improving the logistics of the nation because it connects with the Sihanoukville special economic zone and will allow for greater access to Phnom Penh and Bavet,” she said.
A working group has also been established to explore a new route from Phnom Penh to Bavet, while logistics complexes in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville have been studied, according to Sorn.
The Phnom Penh Logistics Complex has progressed furthest with an agreement set for signing in the next two weeks. A suitable location for the Sihanoukville complex is currently under review with a Singaporean firm studying how to best connect the logistics complex with the upcoming expressway and Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone.
Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville Autonomous Ports are also set to be upgraded.
Sihanoukville Autonomous Port – Cambodia’s only deep seaport – currently has a depth of 20.5 metres and can accomodate 2,000 Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU).
TEU is the standard measurement for shipping capacity in the industry.
Construction on the new Sihanoukville cargo terminal is set to be complete by 2025. Upon completion, the port will be able to receive 5,000 TEU and will have a depth of 40.5 metres.
While the bilateral FTA with China is the only agreement actually signed (just awaiting full ratification), that and other agreements including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the anticpated FTA with South Korea, along with a host of other trade discussions all speak to the need to boost Cambodia’s logistics capabilties now.
The World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index gave Cambodia a score of 2.8 in 2018, a ranking well below other East Asia and Pacific regions.
A Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) data collection survey found Cambodia suffers from high logistics costs when compared with Thailand and Vietnam.
“From an infrastructure perspective, Cambodia’s average score is slightly less than the mean of each scale, and as such, its infrastructure is considered to be slightly below par and will require further improvements to meet the needs of current and future demand,” the JICA report said.