When people talk about “transportation infrastructure,” they all mainly associate with inland means of transportation likes expressway, roads, railways, ports…etc. Not many people know that inland waterway is very potential to promote Cambodian’s economic competitiveness.
Geographically, Mekong River passes Cambodia about 480 km from the border of Lao PDR in the North to Phnom Penh, and to Viet Nam in the South with average width of approximately 1.5 km, and connects with other main rivers including Bassac and Tonle Sap. Those inland waterways are the significant systematic natural waterway which Cambodia is blessed with. By improving waterway activities, It will be used, with lower cost advantage, to transport agricultural products, goods, export utilities, and others resources from provinces to port in Phnom Penh. If Cambodia government encourages such transport activity, it will decrease inland heavy traffic load from provinces to the capital.
Waterway transport still plays as the most useful mode of transport. Economically, for the country that has logistical obstacles, the waterway will improve connectivity and support cargo transit. The government, with assistance of international donors, plans to build a network of inland port along Mekong River to facilitate the movement of passengers as well as goods. Currently, Cambodia government is introducing a waterway passenger transport service via the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac Rivers to Phnom Penh. Even though Cambodians have strong preference to use their private motorcycle or car, but waterway taxi could potentially attract their intention, and it possibly can change their mindset, especially among the younger generation, to support the public transport. Not only reducing heavy inland traffic load, waterway passenger transportation will be an alternative solution to ease traffic congestion in the capital.
The government is launching a waterway passenger service before the Khmer New Year 2017. The waterway service will run on 25 kilometers in about 34 minutes on average. Six floating terminals are under construction, and it will be used as the docking stations. The waterway docking station will be expanded to 15 terminals, according to Facebook post on the Ministry of Public Works and Transport. Each docking station will be connected with public bus stops to make it more convenience for passenger movement. For the first phase, by mid-April this year, Water Taxi Service will be providing ferry services for passenger only by linking Prek Pnov in the North of Phnom Penh to Takhmao City in Kandal Province through its initial six floating terminals.
According to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, 20 express boats will be used to serve passengers for four times daily. The express boats have capacity to carry up to 90 people and equip with air conditioner and safety items, and travel at a maximum 30 kilometers per hour. If the waterway service is running, public servants and workers at some factories, which situated not far from the river banks, will take advantage from the services. However, until now, there is no details information on the waterway taxi schedule, and how much will it charge for initial operation…etc.
Cambodian government must make full use of all its potential natural waterway system. For the long-term, the government will expand waterway transportation service for both people and goods, and for tourism. In the second phase, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport will launch the transport of goods connecting with Phnom Penh’s port for shipment of agricultural products. Traveling by boat is three times faster than inland transport because there is no traffic congestion on the waterway. It is a long envision to the future waterway transportation. Waterway transport plays a significant role to reduce traffic congestion along the way from provinces to the Capital, or in the capital itself, and to decrease overloaded vehicles off the road that normally cause damages and traffic accidents.