Thursday, September 04, 2008

Vietnam's major infrastructure projects stick to their timetable

Vietnam’s first oil refinery is ready to churn out its main products early in 2009; while Ho Chi Minh City’s biggest bridge could open to traffic two months ahead of schedule.

Work is proceeding apace at landmark infrastructural projects that are nearing completion, and some are poised to finish ahead of schedule, project heads say.

The Dung Quat Oil Refinery in the central province of Quang Ngai is speeding up work in order to become operational by February next year as scheduled.

Tran Minh Ngoc, deputy head of the oil refinery’s management unit, told Thanh Nien that every tendering package of the project has been nearly completed with personnel working flat-out around the clock.

“There will be no deterrent to the progress of the project,” Ngoc said.

Until August 29, work on tendering packages 1+4 and 2+3, which involve procurement and installation of equipment and facilities for the refinery, had been almost completed.

Ngoc said that tendering package 5A to build a breakwater, which had worried concerned authorities the most, had wrapped up five months ahead of schedule.

Meanwhile, package 5B (oil product exporting port) and package 7 (administrative and service facilities) have also been completed and are undergoing quality inspections.

The Dung Quat management unit was planning to import crude oil next month so that the refinery could operate on a trial basis by the end of this year, Ngoc affirmed.

The development of human resources for the refinery is also ongoing, with over 500 workers sent to refresher courses in Vietnam and abroad.

The oil refinery is set to hire around 1,200 workers when it is commissioned.

Security concerns

The most vexing problem for the oil refinery is no longer the project’s progress, but the worsening security conditions in the area, said Truong Van Tuyen, the management unit head.

At least 50 crimes have been reported so far this year at the Dung Quat Economic Zone, where the refinery is located, including murders, stabbings, looting and drug deals.

The zone, 870 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City, is home to many petrochemical and heavy industry projects, including the country’s first oil refinery.

In a recent visit to the economic zone, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung also stressed the necessity for public order and security in the area.

Viet Nam is Southeast Asia’s third-largest crude oil producer with output averaging 350,000 barrels per day.

But it still imports most of its oil products in the absence of a refinery.

The commission of the oil refinery will help churn out approximately three million tons of diesel and two million tons of fuel and other petrochemical products annually, meeting around 30 percent of the domestic demand.

Phu My Bridge beats schedule

In HCMC, the Phu My Bridge that is set to dwarf all others in the city, will open to traffic two months ahead of schedule in October next year, its main investor claims.

Nguyen Thanh Thai, general director of the Phu My Bridge BOT Joint Stock Company (PMC), said up to 60% of the work had been completed already.

Thai attributed the early completion to strict discipline and good planning.

The investor and foreign contractors — Bilfinger Berger Co. of Germany, Baulderstone Hornibrook of Australia and Freyssinet International et Companies and Arcadis of France — had inked an agreement in which the former would be fined US$25,000 and the latter $50,000 for every day of delay, Thai said.

The foreign contractors had also done a good job in buying equipment and deputing personnel for the project, said Vo Minh Duc, the construction site manager.

Once work on the bridge began, the foreign contractors had imported 6,000 tons of iron, which helped them avert the adverse impact of recent price hikes in construction materials, Duc noted.

But Thai admitted that sluggish land acquisition in districts 2, 7, and 9 could delay work on approach roads leading to the bridge by six months.

Construction of the cable-stayed bridge as build-operate-transfer (BOT) project began last March.

Under the BOT model, ownership of an asset reverts to the government after a set period of time.

Following its completion, the six-lane bridge will stand 2,031 meters long and 27.5 meters in wide.

The total cost of the bridge project was budgeted at VND2 trillion ($121 million).

PMC is a joint venture between the Hanoi Construction Corp.; Construction Investment and Development; the Joint Stock Concrete Company 620; HCMC Infrastructure Investment and Development; and Thanh Danh Construction and Commerce Company. (TN)