Southern port ponders expansion

Three operators in the Cai Mep-Thi Vai port complex are discussing consolidation to upgrade facilities to accommodate larger ships and make it a more viable regional transit hub.

The MoT is keen on getting port operators in the Cai-Mep Thi Vai port complex to consolidate and expand facilities Photo: Le Toan

The Ministry of Transport (MoT) revealed it would host a roundtable for Saigon New Port and Cai Mep International Terminal – a joint venture between Vinalines, Saigon Port and APM Terminals, and SP-SSA International Terminal – a joint venture between SSA Marine and Saigon Port.

“The port operators will discuss consolidation and construction of a 1,800-metre dock that can accommodate higher capacity vessels,” said an MoT official. “The MoT’s proposal has received a positive reaction from the operators.”

If the consolidation takes place in the future, port operators could expand the scale of the Cai Mep-Thi Vai port complex in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau to make it become a major transit port in Southeast Asia.

Several years ago, four well-known international port operators, including Singapore’s PSA, US’ SSA Marine, Denmark’s APM Terminals and Hong Kong’s Hutchison Port Holdings, pumped billions of dollars into docks at the port complex, but all of them are struggling to survive today because of sluggish demand.

Although the Vietnamese government planned for the Cai Mep-Thi Vai port complex to act as a main sea gateway for direct entry to the south, shippers still have to transit cargo via Singapore or Hong Kong.

Robert Hambleton, general director of Cai Mep International Terminal, said location and scale were vital points to the success of a port. Cai Mep-Thi Vai was ideally located, but the current dire situation among port operators was a reflection of their small scale, he said.

“Vessels are getting bigger and bigger, so they need larger quays. If the consolidation takes place, we can attract more direct exports to Vietnam,” said Hambleton.

He said a consolidation between Cai Mep Container Terminal, Cai Mep International Terminal and SP-SSA International Terminal would represent a good solution and improve Vietnam’s position as a regional hub.

“You get huge markets if you operate large scale ports,” said Hambleton, referring to growing domestic market and potential shipping from China, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.