A $200m Japanese Loan to Upscale Sihanoukville Port

A deal is slated to be signed with Japan to secure a $200 million loan to develop Sihanoukville’s deep-sea port, enabling it to welcome ships of up to 1,200 tons.
A vendor walks on a beach in Preah Sihanouk province. Kiripost/Iea Sonita
A vendor walks on a beach in Preah Sihanouk province. Kiripost/Iea Sonita

Plans are in place for Cambodia to sign a $200 million loan with Japan to jointly develop Sihanoukville’s deep-sea port to enable ships that weigh up to 1,200 tons to dock.

As Cambodia does not currently have the capacity to receive large ships, more money and time is needed to develop and study the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, Hun Sen said in a speech as he received an honorary PhD degree at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP).

The Cambodian premier added that there are many conditions that will take time for Cambodia to study due to the depth of the sea and rocks. He said support from experts to invest is also key to progress.

He added that Cambodia currently transports goods by small ships to transfer to neighboring countries, which is costly in time and financially.

“Since the late Japanese PM [Shinzo Abe] was alive, I asked him to do a pump to help restore the seabed and water depth to ensure that large ships can dock,” Hun Sen said.

“Now, [we] sign to take that loan, push to deepen the water and ensure large ships can come directly to Cambodia. Tomorrow, after meeting with the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we will sign to accept the money,” he said.

Cambodia has a total of 78 river ports located along the Mekong, Tonle Sap, Tonle Bassac rivers, and 27 sea ports, according to the Ministry of Public Work and Transport (MPWT).

These ports are divided into commercial, industrial, tourism and oil ports and are owned by both state and private sectors. These ports play a role in promoting various trade activities in the process of national, regional and international economic development, the ministry said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa is in Cambodia this week to attend the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting (AMM).

In a statement, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said Japan will cooperate to transform Sihanoukville Autonomous Port into a hub port for Cambodia and the wider region.

During a meeting with Cambodia’s Foreign Minister, Prak Sokhonn, Hayashi also said that Japan Maritime Self Defense Force will continuously visit Ream naval base, which is also in Sihanoukville.

“In response, Deputy Prime Minister Prak Sokhonn stated that Cambodia appreciates and values security cooperation with Japan and would like to further advance this cooperation, including the next visit to the Ream base,” Sokhonn said, according to the Japanese statement.

Japan has supported Cambodia's democratic development, Hayashi said, adding he expressed hope that the general election in Cambodia next July will be conducted in a manner that reflects the diverse voices of the Cambodian people, according to the statement.