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Road to port blocked, import-export companies worried sick   2009-07-27 - VietNamNet/TT

A long queue of trucks stretches from the Cat Lai crossroads on Highway 25B east of Ho Chi Minh City all the way to the gates to Cat Lai port. The trucks have not moved for hours; several truck drivers are asleep in their cabins while waiting for the traffic jam to ease.


One day instead of one hour


Gridlock is an everyday obstacle at Cat Lai, southern Vietnam’s biggest container port.  Lately, it’s gotten much worse.  A representative of a transport service provider said on July 25 that 100 shipping containers consigned to his company are stacked up at the port. Though the company has 10 trucks, it has only moved 15-20 containers from Cat Lai port to nearby Bien Hoa City.  “The situation is very serious,” he said. “If we are lucky, we can get two containers a day out of the port.  We will be late in delivering the goods to their owner.”


Goods volume rising but infrastructure lags.

A ship brokerage firm said that the volume of goods moving through Cat Lai Port has been growing as HCM City authorities discourage use of Saigon Port, near the city center.  

“Every day of delay in removing the goods from the port costs us an additional fee of $6-12 per day per container,” he added. “If the company that ordered the goods understands our problem, it will share the fee, but if it does not, we must pay the fee ourselves”.


Nguyen Thanh Tuan, director of a HCM City transport firm, said that his company on July 23 sent nine trucks to the port, but only one had returned with a shipping container to his Ben Cat depot by 10 am of July 24.


The containers Tuan awaits are filled with Toshiba electronics imports. Tardiness in goods deliveries will badly affect the verification and distribution of the products in Vietnam.


The photo was taken on July 24 which shows the long queue of trucks which could not move for hours

Tuan said that it is 55 kilometers from Cat Lai Port to his depot in Binh Duong province, in principle a one hour and thirty minute drive, now takes a full day due to the traffic jam.


There is no problem with the loading and unloading capacity at the port, say the motor transport firms.


Ngo Minh Thuan, Deputy General Director of Tan Cang Saigon (Saigon New Port), which manages Cat Lai port, confirmed that the present volume of goods is easily managed by the port’s infrastructure.  The problem is the poor access road.


Thuan added that in the first six months of the year, though the total volume of goods going through HCMC-area ports decreased by eight to twelve percent, the volume of containers going through Cat Lai port increased by more than eight percent.


Truck drivers also said that Provincial Highway 25B is too small, only two lanes wide. When a truck gets into trouble, it is enough to jam the whole road.


An officer of a shipping firm added that construction work on the new east-west superhighway also impedes container truck access to Cat Lai.


Three temporary measures


Thuan said that Cat Lai port handles 85 percent of the total imports and exports in the southern region, and therefore delivery delays are badly affecting many businesses.


He explained that the port has hired policemen, port guards and youth militia to regulate the traffic and keep order.  That’s just a stopgap. Thuan expects the traffic jam to get even worse in early August 2009, when the new Phu My bridge opens and the upgrading of Highway 25B begins.


Cat Lai Port has taken more steps to ease current problems. Rescue vehicles have been mobilized to help broken-down trucks.  With the cooperation of the contractor for the Highway 25B upgrade, a bypass is being opened to ease circulation of vehicles.  Last, the port administration has asked the HCM City authorities to prevent vehicles from turning left onto the 25B highway after the Phu My bridge opening, so that this traffic does not exerbate the congestion on the access road.


Cai Mep Port road access also strained


In Ba Ria-Vung Tau province southeast of HCM City, SP-PSA international port has been operation since May 2009. However, the construction of an access road to wharfs in the Cai Mep-Thi Vai area has been very slow, SP-PSA has spent $700,000 to build a temporary road (1.2 kilometre long and 40 metre in width) for trucks to move goods.


Cai Mep is a deep water port with an area of 54 hectares and total investment capital of $240 million.


In the first phase, two 600 metre wharves have been finished that can 50,000-80,000 ton ships. The handling capacity is 1.1 million containers (TEU) per annum which will rise to 2.2 million TEU in the second phase.

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