Efforts under way to develop waterway transport infrastructure in Mekong Delta

Investment capital for national inland waterways only accounts for 2% -3% of the annual budget for transportation, leading to major imbalances between road and waterway transport, especially in the Mekong Delta, data from the Ministry of Transport pointed out.

Inland waterway transport vessels in Long An Province (Photo: SGGP)
Inland waterway transport vessels in Long An Province (Photo: SGGP)

Ca Mau is a locality with an intricate system of more than 62 rivers and canals with a total length of 1,185km, but there are about 7,200km of water routes being underutilized.

Apart from a number of inland waterways which are dredged regularly, most waterway transport units can only makes use of the network as is, and suffer poor efficiency due to shallow riverbeds.

The local Departments of Transport in the Mekong Delta acknowledged that waterway transports are not being prioritized compared to road transports due to lack of proper infrastructure, despite its natural advantages.

In face of the situation, the Prime Minister recently issued Directive No. 37/CT-TTg on promoting the development of inland waterways and coastal transportation by inland waterway vessels.

According to Director of the Department of Transport in Ca Mau Ho Hoan Tat, local authorities have worked with the Provincial People’s Committee and the Ministry of Transport on solutions for waterway transport in the region, such as dredging channels to receive high tonnage ships, integrating inland waterway port, and selecting investors to implement projects.

At the same time, Dong Thap provincial Department of Transport would soon work on the time and roadmap for separate matters on the basis of the central planning for inland waterway infrastructure development, as well as local waterway development plans for the period of 2021-2030 and orientation to 2050.

In the short term, localities proposed to the Central to invest in existing national waterways, upgrade routes and harbors as planned for smooth connection and trade for economic efficiency, said Deputy Director of the Department Tran Ngo Minh Tuan.

Director of the Tien Giang Department of Transport Tran Van Bon reported that the Ministry of Transport recently approved adjustments to the Cho Gao canal phase 2 upgrading project with a total investment of over VND1,336 billion (about US$57.5 million), expected to start in 2021 and finish in 2023.

Improving the Cho Gao canal route can help relieve the burden on road transport, and enhance waterway routes connecting the Mekong Delta with HCMC and Southeast regions.

President of the Vietnam Inland Waterway Transport Association Tran Do Liem noted that after a complete upgrade of the Cho Gao canal route, the major waterway leading to and from HCMC, competent authorities should look into connecting other canal routes as well as roads to the Cho Gao canal to create functioning logistics areas.

To synchronously develop the Mekong Delta waterway transport system, in addition to favorable natural conditions, it is necessary to have adequate infrastructure, human resources, and capital, he stated.

According to the Department of Transports of the Mekong Delta provinces, the socialization of dredging will be promoted in some shallow rivers and canals to ensure smooth travel.

There will also be incentives for private firms to invest in the renovation and improvement of inland ports.

Some major projects in the Mekong Delta that require immediate funding include Tac Thu - Ganh Hao river route (Ca Mau); Ca Mau - Rach Gia - Ha Tien waterway transport route; Lap Vo - Sa Dec, Nguyen Van Tiep, Dong Tien - Lagrande, Hong Ngu - Vinh Hung, Phuoc Xuyen canals (Dong Thap Province); HCMC - Kien Luong waterway route (Kien Giang).

The Ministry of Transport in an attempt to fully utilize local waterway transport will focus on improving and upgrading arterial routes, proposing to reserve VND1,337 billion (about US$57.5 million) from the public reserve capital for phase 2 of upgrading Cho Gao canal to the Government and the National Assembly to approve.

In addition, the Ministry will direct the completion of investment procedures for the Southern region’s logistics and waterway corridors development project with loans from the World Bank, expected to start in 2020 and completed in 2025.