River Bank

Transport System


A system to help the people of Koh Dambang to transport their cargo up and down the steep Mekong river bank.

The River Bank Transport System was an outcome of time spent on the remote island village of Koh Dambang, located on the Mekong River, Cambodia.   Only accessible by boat and located half a day's travel from the nearest sizeable community, the remote location presented many challenges for the small community.

Transporting cargo up and down the tall, steep and slippery river banks created by the high water and heavy flows during the wet season provide a daily challenge for the people of Koh Dambang.  Many people including, farmers, fishermen, boat builders, shopkeepers and elderly told of injuries, back problems and spillage of their load sustained by falls.

Hence we set ourselves the design challenge of: 'How might we assist in the transportation of goods up and down the river bank?'

With continued input and knowledge sharing from community members, a prototype of a system was developed that would allow an easy method of transporting cargo up and down the riverbank.

1. The design is made primarily of local bamboo growing on the island.  The bamboo was used to create the main support structure, sled and the rails which supported the sled.  Due to the cylindrical shape of the bamboo, there is minimal contact surface between the sled and rails reducing the amount of friction when sliding the bags of rice up. 

2. The bamboo supports are placed in ground to prevent lateral movement and to support bamboo rails. 

3. The bamboo sled/cart can bear an estimated 200kg and can be loaded and unloaded at either the top or the bottom of the river bank.

4. A winch is mounted at the top of the bank above the rails and is connected to the sled via a rope or wire.  The ratchet mechanism in the winch provides the necessary safety mechanism in order to prevent any case of injury.

5. Rail guides exist under the sled so that the sled will not fall off the sides of the rail. 

6. Stakes are placed in the ground at the top and bottom of the rails to secure the system in place and provide rigidity. 

This system when completed provides the ability for women and children to transport heavy loads up and down the river bank.


A big consideration of this project was the cost.  Most of the community earned around $2 a day, hence an expensive system was not feasible.

The total cost of this system was only $40 US.  The bulk of this expense was purchasing the winch at local markets.  However, this system is designed to be shared with multiple families, which works well with the close proximity of the houses.  This sharing spreads the cost of the system and and creates an extremely affordable and high value system.

Due to the simplicity of the design and the use of local materials, the community have the skills and resources to maintain this transport system and keep it running all year-round.  The sustainable nature of the materials used, means that it has minimal impact of the environment and parts can be replaced ensuring that longevity of this project.

River Transport System Prototype
River Transport System Prototype
River Transport System Prototype
River Transport System Sketch
River Transport System Prototyping
River Transport System Prototyping
River Transport System Prototyping
River Transport System Prototyping
Sunrise on Koh Dambang
Prototyping with the input of local villagers

© 2019 by Ryan Tilley

  • Black Instagram Icon
  • Black LinkedIn Icon
  • Facebook Basic Black