|Ships weighing more than 500-tonnes queue to pass the Cho Gao canal in the southern province of Tien Giang. Experts say the region has failed to invest in developing waterway transport. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Vu
HCM CITY (VNS) — The Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta's great waterway transport potential is being frittered away because of the failure to invest properly in developing it, experts told a seminar in Can Tho on Monday (July 21).
The region has more than 26,500km of rivers and canals and 13,000km of them are used for waterway transport.
Pham Minh Nghia, chairman of the Viet Nam Inland Waterway Transportation Association, said the delta is considered to have among the highest density of rivers and canals in the world, but this advantage has not been exploited well enough for transportation.
Zoning plans and prioritised projects for developing waterway transport were created long ago, but investment in them has been very low, he said.
Le Hoang Linh, director of the Tan Cang Waterway Transport Joint Stock Company, said 80 per cent of the delta's containers meant for export have to be transported to HCM City or Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province by road.
The cost of carrying them by road transport is 10 -60 per cent higher than by waterway, he pointed out.
More investment is needed in waterway transportation and connecting it with other transport modes to ensure economic effectiveness, he said.
The delta is the country's largest seafood and agricultural producer.
It has many old bridges that only allow narrow boat navigation lanes and low clearance, according to the Viet Nam Inland Waterway Administration.
It also has more than 2,500 ports and boat stations each with a capacity of handling 50,000 tonnes to two million tonnes of goods a year, but loading and unloading facilities there are not modern.
Roads leading to these ports and boat stations are not in good condition.
Tran Thanh Man, secretary of the Can Tho Party Committee, said the problem was that investment was not simultaneously made in all related aspects of waterway transport, citing the example of ports that lack channels for large vessels to pass through.
For instance, Can Tho's Cai Cui Port, the delta's largest with a capacity to handle vessels weighing up to 200,000 tonnes, operates at 10-20 per cent of capacity because large ships cannot reach the port since they cannot pass through the silted Dinh An estuary.
Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang said to resolve the delta's waterway problems and capitalise on its potential, awareness needs to be raised among authorities and businesses about the effectiveness of waterway transport and link up various transport modes.
He instructed Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Van The to work with the Southwest Region Steering Committee and authorities in the region to review strategies and zoning plans for developing waterway transportation.
He ordered the Viet Nam Register and the Viet Nam Inland Waterway Administration to publicise waterway transport routes by this quarter.
The Ministry of Transport is set to create a marine route from HCM City to Long An, Tien Giang, Dong Thap, An Giang, and Kien Giang Provinces in the delta.
When it is completed, vessels weighing 500-1,000 tonnes can ply directly to and from HCM City.
Work to expand the Cho Gao Canal, which links the region with HCM City, will be finished by the end of the first quarter of next year.
The Quan Chanh Bo Canal, which is being dredged, will allow large vessels to reach the Hau River from the sea by the end of next year.
These projects would improve waterway transportation in the delta, Thang added. — VNS