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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        25  May 2011

Work halted on Vietnamese port

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Construction of the Van Phong International Port in Vietnam’s southern central province of Khanh Hoa has been suspended for one year with no indication of a resumption date.

"Construction will resume pending a decision by the Prime Minister", said Nguyen Ngoc Quy, director of the Viet Nam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines) Management Board of Marine Projects No 1, in charge of managing the project.

Port construction began at the end of October 2009 in Van Thanh Commune, Van Ninh District. The port, with a total investment of US$3.6 billion, is hoped to become the hub of Viet Nam.

Construction is set to reach completion after 2020, according to the project investor Vinalines.

With only five months left for completing the first phase construction, which would enable the port to handle container ships of up to 9,000TEU, the building site remains deserted. Construction had been suspended due to a geological recheck, Quy said.

Initial explorative drilling did little to encompass area geology, causing faults in pile design. To date, only 6 percent of the total number of piles, priced at VND10 million (US$476) per metre, has been completed.

The project has been faced with a number of obstacles apart from those related to geology, Quy said.

"It has been extremely difficult to mobilise capital for a huge project such as the Van Phong Port, current interest rates being so high," Quy added.

Deputy director of the Van Phong Economic Zone Management Board Hoang Dinh Phi said that Vinalines were committed to ensuring sufficient capital for project completion.

An additional problem relates to port design, which has changed continually. At first, the port was planned to handle container ships of 6,000TEU, then of 8,000TEU and finally of 9,000TEU.

Rapid economic development had increased the demand for goods transportation, Quy said. The Thi Vai – Cai Mep Port in nearby Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province is already capable of handling 9,000TEU container ships.

The current design also needed changing in order to keep abreast of development, he added. The Government had agreed with Vinalines in changing port design to enable it to handle 12,000TEU and 15,000TEU container ships. Quy could not confirm when work would be resumed.

According to a Khanh Hoa People's Committee report, the Van Phong Economic Zone has attracted 101 projects, of which only 16 have come into full operation.

Slow progress is rife, especially at the $4.5 billion Nam Van Phong Oil Refinery, and the $3.8 billion Van Phong Electricity Centre.

According to experts, the Van Phong International Port will play a key role in the development of the Van Phong Economic Zone, despite slow progress having hampered investment in the area.

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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