Vung Tau has long been the gateway of the Southern Key Economic Zone (SKEZ) and the centre of Vietnam and the world’s shipping routes.

The government approved in October 1999 the Vietnam port system development plan to 2010 and divided the country’s port system into eight groups, with Ba Ria-Vung Tau port system in Port Group 5 and Port Group 8. Investment in developing such an important port system is set to open up many new opportunities for the province’s economic development.

According to the provincial Department of Transport’s statistics, the area has eight seaport in operation; including six specialized ports serving the power and oil industries and two general ports with a capacity of 3.5 million tones of goods per year.

Compared with the 1993-1999 period, this port system has progressed since 2000, especially when Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) made a further study of the SKEZ, reaffirming the potential of the ports.

According to the SKEZ socio-economic development plan to 2020, the Southern Port Group 5 includes the port group of the Ho Chi Minh City- Dong Nai - Ba Ria-Vung Tau, of which the Ba Ria-Vung Tau port complex comprises Go Dau C, Phu My, Cai Mep, Vung Tau-Song Dinh, Ben Dinh-Sao Mai.

Carogo throughput at the port complex in 2010 will be 14.5 million tones per year and 41 million tones per year by 2020. During the 2005-2010 period, a number of ports in the Ho Chi Minh City area will be relocated to the outskirts of the city and to the Thi Vai-Cai Mep area of Ba Ria-Vung Tau. By 2020, all the remaining ports in the Ho Chi Minh City area will be relocated to the Thi Vai-Cai Mep area.

Regarding Port Group 8 (the Con Dao port complex), from now to 2010 and 2020, investment will be made to develop Ben Dam Bay, terminal No 1 of Ben Dam Port, and a commercial, maritime and oil services port in Ben Dam Bay. A tourist port for yachts will be constructed in Con Son Bay. Dong Bac Bay will be developed when the ports in Ben Dam Bay operate at full capacity.

This port complex will help with the transport of goods and passengers between Con Dao and the mainland and between islands in the area. It also is a base for oil technical services, seafood processing, tourist centers, as well as storm shelters for fishing vessels and oil service ships in the Nam Con Son sea area.

At present, investment is being prepared for a number of port projects in the province area, such as Ba Son shipbuilding factory, Thi Vai-Cai Mep International Port, Cai Mep New Port and other specialized ports. Construction of the Thi Vai-Cai Mep International Port will start in 2006 and the port will come into operation in 2008.

Thi Vai - Cai Mep port system has 26 projects divided into four groups. Investment in construction of most of the project in group one is currently underway. The provincial industrial parks authority is helping to complete a project for Saigon Investment and Construction Co.LTd to expand the Phu My general port in group one.

Two projects in group two have been approved, but the investment issue is still waiting to be settled. Construction work on four projects in group three is underway except the Vung Tau Oil and Gas joint stock company’s oil storage port project, which has come to a halt because of financial difficulties. Five projects in group four are currently in operation, of which Ba Ria Serece Port is running smoothly.

The development of the port system has attracted has a large amount of investment capital to the province. According to approved plans, excluding specialized ports, investment capital for five general ports amounted to VND5,357 billion ($336.91 million). This includes the Thi Vai-Cai Mep International Port (VND6,037 bn, $379.68m), New Port-Cai Mep (VND1,920bn, $120.75m), Saigon-Thi Vai general port (VND4,060bn, $255.34m) and Phu My general port (VN2,245bn, $141.19m). It is estimated that investment capital to 2010 will reach 60 percent of the said total, or VND12,000bn ($754.71m).

Port projects need large investment capital, so investors must have great financial strength. However, the pace of construction has been slow with most companies waiting for joint-venture partners.

By Ngo Ngai - Vietnam Investment Review - March 20-26, 2006