Seaport development must sail alongside logistics growth

Ho Kim Lan, director general of the Vietnam Sea Ports Association, talks to Hai Quan (Customs) newspaper about conditions for logistics development in Vietnam.

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Can you give an overview of the current situation of seaports in HCM City?

Seaports in Vietnam in general and in HCM City in particular have played an important role in local and national economic development.

However, only some of these ports have received proper investment in their course of development compared to those from other regional countries. A key reason for the situation is their poor market accessibility, limited transport connections and lack of funding for expanding operations.

In my opinion, it is high time for HCM City seaports to receive proper investment to compete with other regional or international seaports.

By now some of the seaports in HCM City have been relocated to outlying districts. For example, the Tan Cang or New Port and the Ba Son Ship Yard have been relocated while the Sai Gon Port is still in the stage of moving to Hiep Phuoc area, an outlying district of HCM City.

In addition, quite a few river ports in the city are also in the process of moving out from the inner city.

The slow relocation of sea ports has cost city authorities a lot of money.

It is said that the seaport system in HCM City is among the best in the world, with up to 50 per cent of the cargo nation-wide going through the city’s ports. But in reality the city has not made the best use of its logistic advantages. How do you respond to such a comment?

According to standard development trajectories, sea port advantages go to localities with big market potential as well as the potential for the development of deep sea ports which can accommodate large cargo vessels.

HCM City has big market potential, but for the deep sea port potential, it is second to Ba Ria-Vung Tau. However, in the long run, HCM City could develop a deep sea river port in the Soai Rap River mouth which is located south of the city. But in my opinion, HCM City should not invest in developing that Soai Rap deep river port as the city already has the Cai Mep-Thi Vai deep river port.

When we talk about the benefits from logistics, we need to look carefully at its management organisation and the flow of goods coming in and going out of the sea port as well as the service charges compared with other international ports. So I should say HCM City has all the advantages regarding the collection of fees and charges as most of the enterprises operating in the field of logistics are registered in HCM City. It is a fact that budget collection from import-export activities by the city’s Customs Office will be gradually falling in accordance with Vietnam’s commitment to the FTA.

Many people have complained that the road axis connecting the city with the sea ports has been seriously deteriorating. How do you respond to their complaints?

Naturally speaking, infrastructure must serve as a motivation for economic development. Seaport infrastructure often has an operation period of over 50 years. So the developer should have a long-term vision that can foresee what will happen after 50 years. In other words, the seaport development plan must be synchronised with the urban development plan and social security programme of each locality. All these have been written in the Government’s guidelines for the national strategy for seaport development.

By now, except the Cat Lai seaport, the other seaports in HCM City are operating below their designed capacity. So in your opinion, what should logistics companies do to make the best use of the seaports’ capacity?

Currently, the Cat Lai seaport has been operating over its capacity. But in the long run, Cat Lai will loose its advantages and then face new challenges. HCM City itself will have to solve quite a lot of challenges arising from changes in the society, environment, transport and urban development in the course of maintaining the operation of big container seaports inside the city.

In addition, other seaports or inland ports in HCM City will also face difficulties and challenges in transport connection and fierce competition, including unhealthy competition. Of course, logistics services must go hand in hand with seaports. And the biggest advantage of the logistic services is that they do not depend on the location of the seaport.

In my opinion, good transport services and transparency and accountability in operation are the most important factors for sea transport to develop in Vietnam in general and HCM City in particular. — VNS

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