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Vietnamese Port Plans Dead In The Water

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

26 September 2012

Vietnam's plans to develop a trans-shipment port in Khank Hoa province, on the South Central Coast, have taken a possibly fatal blow after the government confirmed that it had stripped state enterprise Vinalines of its management of the USD3.6bn project, launched in 2009.

The announcement comes after six Vinalines executives, including most recently its former Chairman, were arrested for alleged financial mismanagement which caused multi-billion losses at the company, highlighting major issues of corporate governance surrounding Vietnam's state-run companies.

The Van Phong port project was aimed at enabling goods to be shipped to America and Europe directly from Vietnam rather than via other more developed regional ports.

However, the project has repeatedly stalled due partly to a shortage of capital from foreign investors, with doubts raised since the project's inception over the viability of a new port located away from any major manufacturing operations.

Having made only minute progress towards the project's completion by 2011, Vinalines sought to make the scheme more ambitious to keep up with regional port developments, namely by extending the total length of the two harbours from 690 meters to 800 meters to enable the facility to accommodate vessels with a capacity of 15,000 Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs), up from 9,000 TEUs previously. These plans however were never coherently communicated to provincial authorities, and consequently permission was never received.

The government has handed responsibility for the project to Vinamarine, the Vietnam Maritime Administration, and requested that it draw up an investment proposal in a last-ditch attempt to bring foreign or domestic investors on board.

Local industry has argued that the project should never have been approved, saying government funds would have been better spent improving rail and road infrastructure to improve the competitiveness of existing ports. Although Vietnam secures business from major shipping companies, the nation's ports have failed to keep pace with the operating advantages offered by better-connected facilities in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore.

TAGS: marine

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