International navigation is one of the most important mandates of large river commissions.
Cambodia and Viet Nam have signed a treaty that will allow freedom of navigation on Mekong waterways between the two countries and increase access to the river system for foreign vessels.
The Treaty on Waterway Transportation, signed by both countries in Phnom Penh today, legally binds Cambodia and Viet Nam to reducing the official restrictions that have existed for cross-border navigation. Both governments say that the move will ... more »
Read the agreement
» English (pdf 1.7MB)
» Khmer (pdf 1.6MB)
» Vietnamese (pdf 1.8MB)
The Mekong Navigation Programme analyses river transport systems and related activities in the Lower Mekong Basin, covering a network of 4,500 km of waterways. Within the basin both maritime shipping and inland water transport (IWT) play significant roles in livelihoods and economic growth as direct access.
Both of these sectors remain under-utilised and somewhat inefficient in terms of management: waterways could be used far more for transport and offer great advantages in terms of economic and environmental costs. Since the inception of the programme considerable advances have been made in enabling the use of the Mekong and its tributaries as transport and freight routes.
The MRC Navigation Programme combats poverty and helps its
Member States to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by
creating the opportunities to:
The main sectors, history, accomplishments and components of the programme are described in brief here. For more detailed information click on the links to each component booklet, to our other technical publications, or contact us at the MRC Secretariat.
The programme researches and gives advice to national governments on maritime law and on the possibilities of increasing trade, transport and tourism via sea routes.
For example, it has been shown that increased use of the routes between inland Cambodia and maritime destinations such as Hong Kong could drastically reduce freight costs for regional producers and traders. The MRC is also advising tourism authorities and operators of the possibility of sailing 350-person luxury cruise ships from the ocean and up the Mekong as far as Phnom Penh.
The role of the MRC in assisting with the development and improved use of these waterways is complex: in many places the river actually forms the border between countries. The Navigation Programme is helping the Member States to set up better co-operation on sharing of routes and with co-ordination on cross-boundary issues.
Formulation of a Navigation Strategy and Programme began in September 2002. The basic premise was to further develop various previous projects designed to implement Article 9 of the 1995 MRC Agreement: Freedom of Navigation. Programme objectives can be summarised as:
The Navigation Programme works through five components. Click on each to download detailed description booklets:
Activities: Socio-economic analysis and regional waterborne transport planning
Through the work of this component the MRC has become a partner in several regional river development initiatives: Master Plan for Navigation in Cambodia (CNMC- Belgium) Chong Kneas Port Development (ADB) Mekong River Navigation Study (VNMC - Belgium) The Bassac Feasibility Study for Navigation (World Bank) The Quadripartite Agreement between China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand
|Component 1 Achievements||Next Actions in Component|
|Final report on technical feasibility of dredging a channel in Tonle Sap Lake. Initial results showed that dredging a small channel would require almost no maintenance dredging. However, stability of the channel is uncertain without experimental dredging to test.||Analyse the economic returns of improving navigation on the Tonle Sap.|
|Started condition surveys for navigation
improvement of ‘hot spots’ between Luang Prabang
||Navigation improvement plans.
Detailed engineering charts of the rapids.
Detailed design for manufacturing and installing buoys and beacons.
Similar condition surveys between the Cambodia border and Can Tho Port in Viet Nam.
|Facilitated negotiations on the draft Waterway Transportation Agreement between Cambodia and Viet Nam||Legal framework for Cross-border Navigation between Cambodia and Viet Nam (early 2008).|
|Better appreciation of the need to establish a legal framework for cross-border Mekong navigation.|
This section of the programme works on overcoming the non-physical barriers to cross-border navigation and trade, for example through diversifying existing navigation agreements.
Existing agreements include:
2000 Upper Mekong-Lancang Agreement and Protocols
- between China, Myanmar, Lao PDR, and Thailand
1995 MRC Agreement, article 9, Freedom of Navigation
- between Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam
1998 Bilateral Agreement on Water Transportation
- between Cambodia and Viet Nam (work on the protocols ongoing)
Programme experts provide advice on establishing guidelines to govern matters such as who will pay for the dredging that is required to improve navigation channels. The ultimate aim is to create a harmonised legal and operational framework to guarantee freedom of navigation, assist negotiations and mediation, and provide support schemes to enforce common rules
|Component 2 Achievements||Next Actions in Component|
|Setting up a study for a Legal Framework for Cross-Border Navigation between Lao PDR and Thailand downstream of Luang Prabang.||The study is conducted, ready to establish a Legal Framework|
|The river between Phnom Penh Port and the Cambodia-Viet Nam border is now fully fitted with buoys and beacons, providing 24-hour safe navigation.|
This component produces aids to navigation, is helping the Member States harmonise rules and systems, and is formulating management strategies for accident prevention, including wrecks and pollution incidents. Staff are conducting environmental impact assessments and training courses to help draw up contingency plans for potential disasters.
|Next Actions in Component|
|Follow-up on maintenance and operational use of the navaids + warranty check|
|Following the Condition Surveys, manufacturing and installing Aids to Navigation: on dangerous areas between Luang Prabang and Pakse in the Lao PDR and Thailand, from Cambodia-Viet Nam border to Can Tho Port|
|Risk for oil spills and other navigation-related hazards in ports and along waterways analysed|
stations will inform oncoming vessels of the available water
depth in the river
This component makes use of the MRC's Mekong River Information System to river users plan their activities and help ensure safety. River level monitoring data is passed on to boat skippers and the relevant authorities in a digestible format. The programme works hard to promote private investment in the Mekong and its tributaries by demonstrating the advantages of river transport and co-ordinating with partners.
|Component Achievements||Next Actions in Component|
|Development of the Management Information System (MIS) Phase II under way.||To get MIS Phase II installed and running through vessel control or automatic identification system.|
|Install two tidal monitoring stations at the Mekong and Bassac Estuaries. The stations will notify incoming and outgoing ships of the exact water levels at the river entrances.|
|Promotion of cruise shipping (sea-going and
Respond to requests by shipping companies and cruise operators.
Help ministries to attract these businesses.
Promote Mekong shipping at specialised cruise fairs.
|China has agreed to cooperate with MRC on a joint navigation improvement project for a condition survey between Houei Say and Luang Prabang with the eventual aim of installing navigational aids.|
This component ensures national ownership and develops national capacity in the navigation sector. Its main tasks are to:
Three implementation phases have been planned:
This component has contributed to many of the achievements listed under the other parts of the programme, including:
The MRC Navigation Programme is squarely founded on direct results and long-term efficiency.
The Navigation Programme will solve many existing cross-border issues and shall also anticipate future cross-border problems such as transboundary pollution.
The Navigation Programme is designed to ensure that this sector is being developed in an environmentally sound and socially just manner.
The MRC is the only regional organisation with a clear mandate to manage, assist in developing, and monitor cross-border waterborne transport.
The total budget for the programme from 2006-2010 is US$19.6 million, of which over a third is provided by Belgium.