Local public-listed Sihanoukville Autonomous Port (PAS) reported an overall decline in business performance in the first quarter of the year – ended March 31 – stemming from regional and global economic slowdown.

In a June 1 filing to the Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX), the state-owned enterprise posted total revenue and net profit after tax to the tune of 77.627 billion riel ($19 million) and 65.978 billion riel for the January-March quarter, respectively down 14.11 per cent and up 99.68 per cent year-on-year from 90.4 billion riel and 33.042 billion riel.

“This was due to [a] decrease in container cargoes and cargoes throughput, yet [an increase] of net gain[s] from assets classified as held for sale, land in Koki village, Bit [Traing] commune, Prey [Nop] district, Preah Sihanouk province [resulted in] the increase in net profit after tax compared to [first] quarter 2022,” PAS chairman and CEO Lou Kim Chhun said in the filing.

As of March 31, total assets and total equity stood at 1.500 trillion riel and 929.778 billion riel, up 5.15 per cent and up 7.64 per cent year-on-year from 1.426 trillion riel and 863.801 billion riel.

Container throughput amounted to 174,649 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) in the three-month period, down 23,533 TEUs or 11.87 per cent year-on-year.

A TEU is an inexact unit of cargo capacity used in the shipping industry roughly equivalent to a container with internal dimensions measuring about 20 feet long, eight feet wide and 8.5 feet tall, or a volume roughly 38.5 cubic metres.

“PAS is going to continue its efforts to improve the business and service operation[s] and to achieve the best results for the benefits of our shareholders. PAS has strengthened the work efficiency and built additional infrastructure to meet the increasing demand of customers and the growing economy,” Kim Chhun said.

With rising cargo and container throughput, PAS is building a new container terminal set to be 350m long and 14.5m deep in its first phase. The facility will be equipped with three quay cranes (QC), nine rubber tyred gantry cranes (RTG), two empty-container reach stackers, 16 container lorries, and an automated management system.

“This new container terminal will allow larger container vessels in [the] region [to call on] PAS, which would solve the water depth constraints for the port. Also, the Ocean Freight Cost would be like neighbouring countries and the region which would contribute to trade facilitation and [socio-economic development],” he said.

According to Kim Chhun, Phase I is expected to be completed by mid-2025 and open before the end of that year, with initial annual container-handling capacity at 1.15 million TEUs.

For reference, the port’s current annual container-handling capacity has been reported at 700,000 TEUs.

The PAS boss revealed in 2020 that the terminal would be able to handle Post-Panamax-class cargo ships with a storage capacity of 60,000 DWT (deadweight tonnage) – or those carrying around 5,000 TEUs – which he said would allow about 93 per cent of container vessels across Asia to enter the Sihanoukville port.

Speaking at the May 1 groundbreaking ceremony for the terminal, Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol remarked that PAS has fuelled growth and development in Cambodia with rapidly expanding cargo throughput that has translated into a steady increase in revenues for the port as well as for state coffers.

He reported that PAS’ total gross throughput and total revenues for 2022 stood at about seven million tonnes and $84 million, up 0.18 per cent and 0.41 per cent over a year earlier.

Kim Chhun told reporters at the time that the terminal would be built in three phases with a total projected cost of $973 million, with funding coming from three sources: $760 million in concessional financing from Japan, $192 million from the Cambodian government, and roughly $21 million from PAS.