Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Sand dredging ships impounded in S'ville

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam rith and Sebastian Strangio
Tuesday, 24 February 2009

AUTHORITIES have impounded two Cambodian sand-dredging vessels off the coast of Preah Sihanouk province, according to fisheries officials who say the company operating the ships lacked the necessary permission.

Fisheries Administration director Nao Thuok said that the company, whose name he could not recall, operated legally in Koh Kong province, but that authorities cracked down when it was found that it was dredging without a licence off Sihanoukville.

"The company ... came to Sihanoukville to dredge, and [the ships] were confiscated," he said, adding that an investigation into its activities was currently under way.

Doung Sam Ath, director of the Preah Sihanouk Fisheries Administration, said that the vessels were confiscated two weeks ago - and a local businessman fined 6.5 million riels (US$1,577.28) - for dredging sand in Stung Hav district without permission from the Ministry of Water Resources.

"We have already fined him and stopped him doing business until he obtains the proper legal documents," he said.

The confiscation of the vessels comes amid increasing sand mining activity along the Kingdom's coastline, raising concerns about the impacts of dredging the sea bed.

Kev Wa, executive director of Environmental Watch and Protection in Cambodia, a Koh Kong-based watchdog, said that "millions of tonnes" of sand had been pulled out of the sea in recent months, citing the possible impacts on "fish species, sea grass and coral reefs".

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