After several months of assessments, earlier in February the Ministry of Transport (MoT) reported to Deputy Prime Minister Tran Hong Ha on the possibility of transferring Thanh Son and Bien Hoa military airports into dual-use for civil activities, and proposed to add these airports into official planning.
Last September, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh established a research and evaluation team to look at the feasibility of converting Thanh Son and Bien Hoa airports, referred to as Working Team 1121.
Deputy Minister of Transport Le Anh Tuan said that based on the research results, the units have proposed to supplement the planning of the two airports in the master plan for the development of the system for 2021-2030, with a vision to 2050.
Thanh Son, a military airport in the south-central province of Ninh Thuan, could see 1.5 million passengers annually by 2030 and three million by 2050, while the Bien Hoa airbase in the southern province of Dong Nai is aiming to reach five million passengers this decade, and 10 million passengers a year by 2050.
“Currently, the people’s committees of both provinces are looking to convert these two airports under the public-private partnership (PPP) method to submit to the prime minister for consideration,” said Tuan.
If approved, the national airport network will be planned under the hub-and-spoke model, with two main hubs in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnam expects to have a total of 30 airports by 2030, with 14 for international flights and 16 airports for domestic only. In addition, the draft plan still keeps the Haiphong international airport project at Tien Lang district, which was approved in 2011.
The assessment of the working team has been deemed positive, and the MoT has received proposals from 10 localities to add new airports into the national master plan (see box).
The main purpose of Working Team 1121 was to determine the needs and models of civil aviation, and preliminary assess technical factors on the possibility to build an airport. The MoT emphasised that the assessment results thus far are only preliminary and do not meet fully the requirements to establish any airport.
The MoT has directed the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam and relevant units to support localities that have proposed to supplement new airports in the planning, and preliminarily assess the possibility of establishing such airports.
Another important task of Working Team 1121 was to study and revise PPP ventures at existing airports in Son La, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Quang Nam, Lam Dong, and Can Tho provinces to submit to the government for consideration.
As of February, only four of the six localities have completed plans on private investment engagement and exploitation of the airports. The MoT is gathering the opinions of the working team as a basis for localities to complete procedures.
Deputy Minister Tuan said, “Due to the complexity and progress of implementing the projects, the MoT proposes to the prime minister to consider an extension of the deadline for reporting research results by localities.”
Based on working results, the MoT has received opinions from nine out of 10 localities on issues surrounding new airport planning. In particular, Son La People’s Committee proposed adding Na San airport to the planning system and converting Moc Chau airport into a specialised airport to develop tourism.
Dang Quoc Khanh, Secretary of Ha Giang Party Committee, said that in order to exploit the potential and strengths of the locality, the transport system there needs breakthrough development.
“Besides developing the road system connecting to the highways in the region, the construction of an airport in Ha Giang is essential to ensure both economic development and national defence and security,” Khanh said.
Pham Huu Son, general director of Transport Engineering Design Incorporated, said the need for planning transport infrastructure for the socioeconomic development of localities is justified, and that these localities have huge potential to develop the aviation market.
“However, in order to ensure the feasibility of the planning, it is necessary to continue to study, survey, and evaluate closely the economic and technical factors,” said Son.
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