China is consolidating in the Gulf of Thailand with another deep-water port in Cambodia

With Cambodia as a spur, Beijing is consolidating its hold in the Gulf of Thailand, which can become a gateway for Chinese ships to enter the Indian Ocean.

China’s state news agency Xinhua reports that China Harbor Engineering Company Ltd. (CHEC) was awarded a contract by a Cambodian company last week to build a multi-purpose seaport in Kampot Province, south-west Cambodia.

The deep water port of Kampot is located in southern Cambodia on the eastern edge of the Gulf of Thailand.

The contract was signed between the Managing Director of CHEC’s Cambodia office, Lan Qiuli, and Meas Thom, President of Kampot Logistics and Port Company. Cambodian Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol was present on the occasion.

The 600-hectare Kampot logistics and port project began in May last year, with Shanghai Construction Group and China Road and Bridge Corporation also being the contractors.

Chanthol, the Cambodian minister, said the 15-year project has an estimated cost of US$1.5 billion and construction has been divided into three phases.

The first phase, from 2022 to 2025, is expected to cost $200 million, he said.

Kampot’s 15-meter deep water port will accommodate ships weighing up to 100,000 tons and will be able to handle 300,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in 2025 and up to 600,000 TEU in 2030, Xinhua reported

“This mega-project includes a container terminal, a special economic zone, a free trade zone, a logistics center, an oil refinery and a tourist ship terminal, among others,” he said.

The Cambodian minister was quoted as saying that the port will be the third largest port in Kampot province after Sihanoukville Autonomous Port in the coastal city of Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh Freshwater Autonomous Port in the capital Phnom Penh.

By building the port, China would raise its profile in the Gulf of Thailand, which is separated from the Indian Ocean by a section of the Malay Peninsula to the west and the Indochina Pen

In fact, the Chinese are upgrading and modernizing the infrastructure at the port of Ream in Cambodia. It includes a new command center, meeting and dining halls, and medical outposts. A dry dock, slipway and two new piers will also be built. China will also conduct dredging to prepare the port to accommodate larger ships, believed to be naval warships.

In the past, the Chinese have also shown interest in the Kra Canal, which if built could link the Gulf of Thailand to the Andaman Sea.

The Thai Canal (formerly known as the Kra Canal) refers to a proposed 135 km canal through southern Thailand that would connect the Gulf of Thailand to the Andaman Sea.

China has long planned to build the 135-kilometer canal across the Kra Isthmus. To avoid the American-dominated Malacca Straits, China hopes to channel some of its shipping through the canal. Also, by channeling energy tankers through the Kra Canal, the Chinese hope to cut transit costs by nearly 80 percent.

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