Transport Minister Dinh La Thang has asked concerned agencies to expedite work on a major project to improve operational efficiency of Seaport System No.5 to make it a regional entrepot in a near future.
The system covers all the ports in Ho Chi Minh City and the neighbouring provinces of Ba Ria-Vung Tau and Dong Nai.

The project, which has already been approved by the Government, includes upgrading the Cai Mep – Thi Vai Port in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau.

The aim of the project is to reduce and eventually stop the dependence on regional entrepot ports like Singapore and Hong Kong to ship Vietnamese commodities to overseas markets, Thang said.

He noted that although several smaller ports under the Cai Mep – Thi Vai Port are operational, commodities are still being transported to old seaports in downtown HCM City.

This was happening because no department or oganisation is directly responsible for managing and operating the shipment process, he added.

The original plan for the Cai Mep – Thi Vai Port was to reduce the use of seaports in downtown HCM City.

To deal with the current situation, the Transport Ministry has suggested several measures including a moratorium, until 2015, on issuing licenses for new container ports for the entire system that also houses the Cai Mep – Thi Vai port.

New solutions will be proposed later for the 2015-2018 period.

In making its decision on the entire system, the ministry has said it would also takeover decisions regarding the establishment and expansion of ports nationwide. It will take into account the actual need for seaports, the investment required as well as their suitability with land-use plans, the minister said.

At present, provinces and cities nationwide are allowed to decide on the construction of infrastructure projects in their respective localities.

Thang said his ministry will also try to increase the volume of imported products coming through the seaport system, especially through the Cai Mep – Thi Vai Port, while limiting the number of foreign companies that can transport domestic goods to the port.

The ministry has, along with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), proposed the revamping of the national seaport authority, giving it new responsibilities and functions.

One major change would be to give the authority an investment management function, based on real market demand as well as the operational capacities of seaports.

The authority will be allowed to collect import and export taxes due on cargo shipments, saving companies a lot of time.

JICA, which has acted as a consultant for the system, has suggested the use of smaller ships or boats to transport goods from Ho Chi Minh City to Cai Mep – Thi Vai in a short time to increase the volume of goods that the system handles.

Over the long term, road connections between the city and Cai Mep – Thi Vai have to be improved and all port construction in the locality stopped, it has advised.

Attracting more industrial investment into Ba Ria – Vung Tau, where the Cai Mep – Thi Vai Port is located, should be another, it has said.

It has also proposed the establishment of a port authority at the soonest.

The Cai Mep – Thi Vai Port should work closely with cargo shipment companies, and take measures to cut costs and increase shipments, JICA has said.

It has said that the authority collaborates with other agencies on the construction of inter-port roads, development of logistics centres, and building more wharves in Mekong Delta provinces to attract more goods for to the nation's port system.

JICA even suggested that the authority pays to have boats transport goods from neighbouring provinces to the port.

The seaport system includes the Sai Gon, Nha Be, Cat Lai and Hiep Phuoc ports in Ho Chi Minh City, including the Go Dau C, Phu My, Cai Mep, Vung Tau and Song Dinh ports in Ba Ria – Vung Tau; and the Phu Huu, Ong Keo, Go Dau A, B and Phuoc An ports in Dong Nai.-VNA