Basic environmental study of the ports of Vietnam and Cambodia.

Quynh Le Xuan, Lien Verbeeck, Luc Hens (Editor)

Research output: Book/ReportBook


During the past decade, the world seaborne trade increased from 4 billion tonnes of goods in 1990 to 6.17 billion tonnes in 2003. The world merchant fleet expanded to 857 million deadweight tonnes at the beginning of 2004, a 1.5 percent increase as compared to 2003 (UNCTAD 2004). The increase in the world seaborne trade has lad to the development of ports. The world container port traffic expanded at the rate of 9.2% in 2002, reaching 266.3 million TEUs. In 2002, ports in developing countries handled 103.6 million TEUs, or 38.9% of the world total TEUs handled (UNCTAD 2004). There are more than 2,000 ports around the world, which handle more than 80% of trade with origins in or destinations to developing countries (WorldBank 2003).

Sea transport is one of the modes of freight transport that has many advantages as compared to the old-fashioned inland transport by road and rail. Sea transport is considered the most cost-efficient mode of transport and at the same time the most environmentally friendly one. Sea transport is able to move a large amount of cargo over a very long distance at the lowest expense (UNCTAD 2004).

A seaport is the interface between sea transport and inland transport. With the growing globalisation, seaports have become more and more important in facilitating the process of economic integration. At seaports, traditional services are provided next to value-added logistics. Increasingly, seaports provide more and more services related to industrial, trade and financial activities thus becoming economic hubs.

However, at the same time, they are major sources of pollution. Seagoing ships and heavy-duty trucks operate mostly on diesel and cause degradation of seawater and port atmosphere, and impact human health. These later impacts include wide range of diseases from respiratory problems to cancer.

With the increasing economic transactions between continents, seaports are likely to expand to accommodate greater cargo volumes. With a coastline of more than 3,200 km and a claimed sea area of more than 1 million km2, marine transport is a potential and growing industry in Vietnam. The number of seaports increased from 40 seaports in 1999 to 100 in 2002 and this number is planned to increase up to around 114 in 2010. By 2002, Vietnam's merchant fleet had 880 ships with 2.4 million DWT to meet the increasing transport demands.

In Cambodia, the fleet consists of 564 ships with a total tonnage of roughly 2 million tonnes. However, most of the ships have an average age of more than 26 years and more than 70% of the ships are owned by foreigners (Department of Marine Merchant of Cambodia, 2004). Over the period 1989-1994 Cambodia's register was inactive. Since its reactivation in 1995, it
recorded a net increase in tonnage of 3,230% (up from the 1995 level of 59,958 GT to 1,996,738 GT in 2001). During the period 1995 - 2001, the trend has been a reasonably large and constant increase in tonnage. There are two kinds of vessels in Cambodia: the local coastal and the international fleet vessels. Most of Cambodian coastal ships are fishing vessels. The main part of this fleet is based in two ports namely, Sihanoukville and Koh Kong. To date, Cambodia has two international ports, one is the deep-sea port of Sihanoukville and the other is the river port of Phnom Penh. In 2000, both ports provided good facilities, in terms of both capacity and performance. The port of Sihanoukville consists of an old port and a new port. The port of Phnom Penh is 2 km long and can accommodate vessels with a draft of 4.2 m during the dry season and 5.2 m during the rain season.

This report entails a comparison of five ports in Vietnam and Cambodia. Three of these ports are located in Vietnam (Hai Phong, Da Nang, Vung Tau) and two ports are situated in Cambodia (Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville). The three Vietnamese ports are large ports with average annual tonnage throughputs range from roughly less than 1.5 million tonnes to more than 14 million tonnes. All three ports are also major hubs for passenger transit. In Cambodia, the Phnom Penh port, a river port, has an average annual tonnage throughput of less than 1 million tonnes and serves more than 50,000 passengers a year. The
port of Sihanoukville, though the only deep-sea port in Cambodia, has an average annual throughput of less than 2 million tonnes. Although being different in size and scale, ports in Cambodia and Vietnam all face emerging environmental problems related, among other things, to ship discharges (bilge, ballast, and sewage), oil spills (bunkering), heavy traffic, and noise.

This report gives an overview of the environmental problems in the above-mentioned ports, along with information on current management systems and institutional aspects related to environmental management in port areas. The aim of this basic study is to analyse the environmental situation in the five ports and to set priority issues for the port's environmental management. It seeks to facilitate the process of integrating environmental aspects into management plans of the ports studied in the project. The project gathers data and information essentials to the understanding of environmental issues concerning port operations and will allow port managers to start an Environmental Management System aimed at resolving the most pressing problems.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherProject VN/Asia Pro Eco/001 (91168)
Number of pages145
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • seaport
  • Vietnam
  • Cambodia
  • environmental management
  • marine environment
  • pollution
  • water pollution
  • policy


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