Developing Vietnam’s seaport system to meet international integration

After 20 years of implementing the Prime Minister’s Decision No. 202/1999/QD-TTg dated October 12, 1999 approving the Master Plan on development of Vietnam’s seaport system to 2010, until now, Viet Nam has formed a complete seaport system from North to South. As of April 2, 2021, Viet Nam has 286 ports[1], of which Hai Phong is the locality with the most ports (50 ports), followed by Ba Ria – Vung Tau province (45 ports) and Ho Chi Minh City ranked third (43 ports). The current seaport system is synchronously planned in association with major economic centers and regions of the country. In particular, large seaports as a focal point serving import and export of goods and creating a driving force for the development of the whole region have clearly formed and contributed significantly to the growth of the economy such as: Quang Ninh and Hai Phong seaports are associated with the northern key economic region; seaports of Thua Thien-Hue, Da Nang, Dung Quat, Quy Nhon associated with the central key economic region; Ho Chi Minh City seaport, Ba Ria-Vung Tau seaport, Dong Nai seaport are associated with the South key economic region; Can Tho and An Giang seaports associated with the Mekong River Delta key economic region. Some seaports have been invested with modern international scale such as Cai Mep International Port (CMIT) – Ba Ria – Vung Tau and Tan Cang International Container Terminal (HICT) – Hai Phong are ranked into deep-water container ports to receive super-long and super-heavy ships on the world voyage. Regarding transport routes[2], Viet Nam has now established 32 sea transport routes, including 25 international transport routes and 7 domestic transport routes, of which in addition to Asian routes, the northern region has operated 2 routes to North America, 16 routes to North America and Europe have been established in the south; ranked third in Southeast Asia, just behind Malaysia and Singapore.

Along with the rapid growth in quantity, Viet Nam’s seaport system is constantly improving in capacity and service quality, so the volume of goods through the seaport system is increasing day by day. In 2015, the volume of goods through the seaport reached 427.8 million tons, accounting for 81.8% of the volume of goods through the ports (including seaports, inland waterway ports and airports). By 2020, despite being significantly affected by the Covid-19 epidemic, the volume of goods through the seaport system reached 692.3 million tons, accounting for 78.7% of the volume of goods through the ports. In the period 2016-2020, the volume of goods through the seaport increased by 61.8%, an average annual increase of about 10%.

With the advantage of sea transport being large quantity, long distance, low cost, currently in the world, 80% of the volume of trade goods exchanged between countries is by sea transport and the same in Vietnam (in 2015 accounted for 81.8%; 2016 accounted for 80.1%; 2017 accounted for 83.3%; 2019 accounted for 80.1%; 2019 accounted for 80% and 2020 accounts for 78.7%). It can be seen that the operation of seaports quite clearly reflects the economic picture of Viet Nam and plays an increasingly important role in marine economic development and the country’s international integration process.

Although after 2 decades of planning, Viet Nam’s seaport system has undergone drastic changes in both quality and quantity, but there are still some shortcomings that need to be overcome soon such as: The lack of synchronization between seaport planning with local construction planning and other sectors; infrastructure has not kept up with the increasing demands of the regional and world maritime markets; lack of modern seaports capable of receiving ships of large tonnage; Outdated loading and unloading equipment, low productivity… In order for the seaport system to better meet the requirements of socio-economic development and international economic integration, ensuring national security and defense, it is necessary to focusing on a number of issues such as: The planning of Viet Nam’s seaport system nees a long-term, synchronous strategic vision, ensuring the connectivity between seaports and other transport networks; apply science and technology to develop a modern Vietnamese seaport system with full supporting infrastructure in order to improve productivity, quality, efficiency and competitiveness of the whole system; investing in a number of key seaports to become important transport hubs; improve the port management model, expand the participation of the non-state sector to bring about greater economic benefits.

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