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Mekong Delta needs urgent port upgrade

The exchange of goods between the Mekong Delta and the rest of the world has increased in recent years, reaching 12 million tonnes in freight per year with experts forecasting an increase to 18-20 million tonnes a year by 2010.


However, ports in the area cannot receive ships above 10,000dwt forcing export-import companies to transport goods to the Ho Chi Minh City port system for shipping.

Problems in transporting goods are occurring because the volume of freight is over-sized compared to the small port system in the Mekong Delta region. This situation has engendered a need for a larger port with a greater capacity than the delta’s current largest port of Can Tho. Most of the ports are also positioned inland, as far as 100km from the sea, and the port system, including the access channel of Dinh An leading to and from the sea, is only able to receive ships of up to 7,000dwt at high tide.

Because of such limitations a majority of exports and imports in the Mekong Delta cannot be handled by the ports in the region, but must be transferred to the port system in Ho Chi Minh City. This causes exporters and importers to suffer higher transport costs of up to $6-8 per tonne extra. So, with a total freight of 12 million tonnes per year, the Mekong Delta has to shoulder an extra spending burden of tens of millions of dollars a year, not to mention the inadequate transport infrastructure, including the port system, which is the main reason the Mekong Delta is considered to be less attractive to investors.

Because of this sad reality, the construction of a deep-water port able to receive heavy-tonnage ships in the Mekong Delta has become an urgent need. Prime ministerial decision 01/1998/QD-TTg, dated January 5, 1998 on the ratification of a master plan for the Mekong Delta socioeconomic development to 2010, acknowledged the need to set up a deep-water port for the Mekong Delta.

So, it is necessary to find a suitable construction site, plan procedures, and estimate the length of time for construction work.

During the 1990s, international maritime experts surveyed the Mekong Delta and found that there was a suitable site for a seaport on the Soc Trang provincial coast. Other international maritime and financial groups later came to Soc Trang for a survey of the site and proposed a multi-purpose seaport project in the seaside area of Long Phu district adjacent to Vinh Chau district of Soc Trang province.

The initial investment partners include the multi-national financial group Bosco Ward & Nopar, Lig (US) in association with Europe’s maritime construction groups HPC Hamburg Port GmbH (Germany) and Commodity International (Luxembourg). They met and discussed the project with Soc Trang provincial leaders and expressed their determination to invest in a multipurpose seaport to handle imports and exports and provide logistic services for the deep-sea fishing industry under the Build - Operate - Transfer (BOT) form. The group also agreed to permit domestic partners to contribute 30 per cent of the total investment capital in the form of land use rights.

The $102 million deep-water seaport project includes the construction of a pier to a dredged area 12-metres deep, which will provide an access channel for heavy-tonnage ships. So the port will be able to accommodate ships of up to 50,000dwt and have a cargo handling capacity of 25 million tonnes a year. The project also includes a breakwater to protect the port.

The foreign investors pledged that they would bear all the cost of a pre-feasibility study, estimated at about $3 million, adding they would implement the port project if feasible and would accept the loss if it was not.

The Ministry of Communications and Transport agreed — in official letter 3975/GTVT-KHDT dated October 23, 2002 — to the Soc Trang People’s Committee’s proposal for a foreign-conducted study of a deep-water seaport project under the BOT form in Soc Trang province. The study would include a detailed plan for the Mekong Delta’s Seaport Group 6 and would submit the project to the prime minister for approval if it was feasible.

The Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), in official letter 6985/BKH-CSHT dated November 4, 2002 to the prime minister, said: “The Mekong Delta is defined as being in an important strategic position in political, socioeconomic and national defence terms and the need for the transport of goods there is very great, especially water transport through ports. This area does not have any seaports able to receive ships over 10,000dwt to carry rice and other agro-products directly to outside markets.”

“Soc Trang province, located near the centre of the Mekong Delta, on the Song Hau River, close to the East Sea, is a place where many important water and land routes intersect, so is very convenient for domestic and foreign trade. For this reason investing in a deep-water seaport is natural and, if social conditions permit, totally necessary to the socioeconomic development plan for Soc Trang province as well as for the entire Mekong Delta,” the MPI letter said.


                                                                             Source: VIR

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