The future port of call

April 18, 2013 | 00:55
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With the construction of Japanese-backed $900 million Lach Huyen seaport commencing last week, Japanese Ambassador to Vietnam Yasuaki Tanizaki addressed questions from VIR’s Thanh Tung.

In your opinion, how important is Lach Huyen port to Vietnam’s export and import activities, and the country’s economic development?
 
Like Japan, Vietnam has great potential of further economic growth if it develops marine transportation. The location of Lach Huyen seaport is very important, taking into consideration 20 million highly educated people and concentration of industries in Vietnam’s Red River region. The seaport is a gateway not only to northern Vietnam, but also to the Mekong countries through the East-West Economic Corridor. Therefore, the project has great significance for the industrialisation of Vietnam and its sea-based economic development strategy. 

Formulated in 2009 under the framework of  “the Vietnam-Japan strategic partnership,” the symbolic seaport is the first large-scale model case of public-private partnership (PPP) between Japan and Vietnam, utilising Japanese official development assitance (ODA) loan for basic infrastructure and participation of the joint venture company for port facilities such as construction, operation and management of cargo-handling equipment.

Some experts have raised environmental concerns. How do you respond? 

Among many ship types, container-carrying ships are the main carriers for transporting industrial products and helping reduce transportation costs. Therefore, more seaports are being adapted to large berth basins. Following that trend, Lach Huyen seaport is designed to be 14 metres deep where 4,000-cargo container ships can be docked.

Meanwhile, the water depth of the current Haiphong port is only 9m, which cannot accommodate large-size container ships, and it requires continued dredging maintenance due to the natural sedimentation from the upper stream.The Haiphong Port A far offshore seaport with deep water easily accessing the East Sea could be an appropriate location, but it is too far from the mainland, taking much time for land transportation after discharging of cargo. Thus, when we finalise a seaport’s location, we have to consider all factors of the dredging cost, the construction cost and the utility. Lach Huyen seaport’s location and design were finalised after the thorough feasibility study and due consideration.

The port will face annual,  dredging. How will the dredged mud, already mixed with industrial waste,  be treated to limit  risks?

The existing plan of disposing dredged materials to offshore was approved by the Ministry of Transport, and also, the project’s environmental impact assessment report covering the disposal method of dredged materials was approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. The environmental monitoring is going to be carried out throughout the dredging and the disposal works.

As the current Haiphong port needs regular maintenance of dredging, Lach Huyen seaport also requires the same kind of maintenance. And there has been a survey showing that Lach Huyen seaport’s dredged soil volume will not be much larger than that of Haiphong port, and that the cost of maintenance dredging will remain. The dredged seabed soils in Lach Huyen are primarily natural sediments and the dredging work itself will not mix them with industrial wastes.

This  is a public-private partnership (PPP) project, a key development tactic for Vietnam. So what can be expected from this project?

As more PPP projects move ahead, the public sector which tend to put the emphasis on ease of explanation are expected to gain the sense of cost efficiency in its decision-making process. I believe it would contribute to a more efficient infrastructure building by the Vietnamese government throughout the country.

What advantages and difficulties are anticipated?

One of the advantages of the construction of Lach Huyen seaport is its cost-effectiveness. The construction cost is largely reduced by making use of the existing sea route compared with the cost which includes the development of a new sea route. The existing sea route will be expanded where little sediment inflows from the upstream, and therefore, there will be less backfill in the sea route.

As for the difficulties, the soft ground of the port construction site could be a technical difficulty.

However, Japan has lots of experience and know-how of port construction on a soft ground, and I believe this project will be successfully completed.

By Thanh Tung

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