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Tide turns against HCM City cargo

Update: February, 10/2012 - 15:32

HCM CITY — HCM City's ports have seen a sharp fall in the volume of cargo transported through them, the Viet Nam Seaport Association (VSA) has reported.

The total cargo the city's 11 ports helped transported plunged from 74 million tonnes in 2009 to just 58.19 million tonnes last year.

One of the main reasons, according to the VSA, is the robust development of deepwater ports in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province that are drawing away large vessels from HCM City due to the city's strained transport infrastructure.

Most of the city's ports are located on major rivers, meaning they lie inland. Even the ones closest to the sea are dozens of kilometres from the coast, so only vessels of 20,000 tonnes or less can easily access them.

Worse still, the ports are not well-connected with rail routes and thus most goods carried into or out of them depend on container trucks. Even the trucks have great difficulty since city roads are usually congested.

Cat Lai Port is a prime victim of this congestion though it is otherwise conveniently located between the city and production hubs like Bien Hoa and Binh Duong. Provincial Highway No 25B is always congested, forcing many importers and exporters to turn to ports in Vung Tau.

The city People's Committee recently restricted trucks from using city roads during certain hours of the day, allowing them in only between midnight and 6am.

Nearly 200,000 tonnes of cargo are stuck at Lotus Port due to this, the port director Nguyen Anh Tuan said.

Nguyen Bay, director of Bien Dong Port, said turnover had plunged by half, causing the incomes of hundreds of workers also to decline significantly.

To survive, the ports have had to cut tariffs by 15-20 per cent, and even 30 per cent in case of containers.

A spokesperson for them said the ports charged foreign-flagged vessels only 30 per cent of what they paid elsewhere in Asia.

With such low charges, the ports could not afford to invest money in development, he said, since build just one metre of wharf cost VND750 million (US$36,000).

Tran Quang Phuong, director of the city Department of Transport, said the ports would likely lose 50-70 per cent of their business soon.

Analysts said the ports have for years created employment for dozens of thousands of workers, so their maintenance and development were a crucial and immediate task.

To help them recover, the city needs to improve road infrastructure as well as have proper transport regulations at the ports, they added. — VNS

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