Dozens of large, well-invested ports in Mekong Delta provinces have been operating far below their capacity for several years and regularly lying in wait for cargo.
According to the Can Tho Marine Port Office, 15 ports in the region are facing this situation.
With limited activity at these ports, many businesses in the region have their freights transported to Ho Chi Minh City-based Cat Lai port before exporting them because the local ports cannot handle big ships.
In 2011, Tan Cang Marine Transport Co. signed a 20-year-contract to rent Cao Lanh and Sa Dec ports in Dong Thap province.
Le Hoang Linh, chair of the company’s management board, said that with this rent and port facilities upgrade, his company hopes to boost container transport and logistics and turn Dong Thap’s ports into a thriving midpoint in freight transport between the region, Cambodia, HCMC ports and deep water port Cai Mep in Ba Ria Vung Tau.
However, activity at Cat Lai port has remained excruciatingly poor since. Sadec port fares a little better, as freight transport businesses tend to use road transport, as Linh explained.
In the Mekong Delta commercial city of Can Tho, Cai Cui, Can Tho and Tra Noc ports, which can take in 10,000-20,000 ton ships, have the same fate, with most activities limited to barges.
Tra Noc port was built in 2003 with three piers capable of receiving 10,000-15,000 ton ships for rice export. However, according to Nguyen Van Bich, vice director of Song Hau Food Co. and the port director, 90% of the company’s rice destined for export is transported to HCMC’s Cat Lai port on barges as large-capacity vessels can’t enter the Tra Noc port.
Vo Minh Tien, vice director of Can Tho Marine Port Office, said that large petroleum companies such as Petrolimex and PV Oil also have to use barges to transport their products from HCMC to their warehouses in Can Tho for the same reason.
Bui Thanh Hiep, director of An Giang Ports Co., explained that though My Thoi port is totally capable of taking 50,000-ton vessels, the Dinh An stream, the estuary into local ports has very low water level, stopping over-5,000-ton ships from entering the ports.
Every year VND18-30 billion (up to US$1.4 mil) is spent on dredging up the Dinh An stream, but to little avail.
Bich said that transporting rice to Cat Lai port means his company incurs an extra VND50,000-60,000 (US$30) per ton, which increases the rice prices.
“As a result, prices of the region’s hallmark products for export such as seafood and fruits rise, which is a major disadvantage to local enterprises,” said Duong Nghia Hiep, vice director of the Can Tho Department of Industry and Commerce.