The authorities in the central province of Quang Nam expect private investors to upgrade and operate Chu Lai in a bid to turn the airport into an international one.
The province’s chairman, Le Tri Thanh, offered the proposal at a meeting with the Ministry of Planning and Investment on Sunday about several major investment projects which will be undertaken there in the foreseeable future.
The investment model of the Chu Lai airport will be similar to that of Van Don International Airport, developed by Vietnam's private firm Sun Group, in the northeastern coastal province of Quang Ninh, according to Thanh.
Located in Chu Lai Open Economic Zone in Nui Thanh District, the Chu Lai airport was originally built by the United States Marines as Chu Lai Air Base before 1975.
The airport was nearly abandoned after the American war in Vietnam, and was only used irregularly for military flights.
It was not until 2005 that work on the airport terminal began. One year later, the first commercial flight from Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City landed there.
The central government later approved a plan to develop the airport into an international transport and aviation service center, with an annual capacity of five million passengers and five million tons of cargo by 2030.
In April 2019, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc ordered the Ministry of Transport team up with the Quang Nam authority to seek ways to refurbish and upgrade the airport using private funding only.
A number of private companies have shown their interest in the airport.
In March 2019, Vietnam’s largest privately-owned conglomerate Vingroup asked for the Ministry of Transport's permission to refurbish, upgrade, and expand the airport under the build-operate-transfer financing model.
BOT is a project-financing framework in which the developer receives a concession from the public sector to finance, design, construct, and operate a facility for a certain period, during which time it can use the project as a means of generating revenue.
In March 2017, the country’s budget carrier Vietjet Air also sought the ministry’s approval to carry out a project to upgrade the airport under a business cooperation contract.
At that time, Vietjet looked to become the major investor of the project and selected several components for investment while the rest would be assigned to other qualified investors.
In response, the Ministry of Transport said the proposal of Vietjet, if adopted, could affect the privatization plan of the Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV) – the owner of the airport – that had already received the nod.
Chairman Thanh also suggested the Ministry of Planning and Investment collaborate with the Ministry of Finance on a proposal which aims to inject VND200 billion (US$8.6 million) into a fire prevention project in Hoi An Ancient Town, a popular tourist destination.
The provincial authority sought the green light from the central government to call on the private sector to build and run a waterway for accommodating vessels weighing around 50,000 tons to facilitate imports and exports, and develop tourist wharfs to receive international cruise ships in Chu Lai Port.
Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung said Quang Nam Province is located in a very dynamic region, as it borders the central coastal city of Da Nang and Dung Quat Economic Zone in nearby Quang Ngai.
The province has the potential to develop a range of transport infrastructures, such as roads, railways, waterways, seaports, and airports, according to the minister.