Waking up the "golden” seaport

Wednesday, 2018-02-14 14:51:39
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Ultra large container vessel Maersk Line docks at the CMIT (credit: Le Anh Tuan)
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NDO - Vietnam's maritime industry witnessed a special event in 2017 with the reception of Margrethe Maersk, an ultra large container vessel with a capacity of 18,000 TEU owned by Danish shipping giant Maersk Line. The vessel docked at the Cai Mep International Terminal (CMIT) in Ba Ria-Vung Tau province on February 20, 2017, proving CMIT as one of the 19 terminals in the world capable of handling such huge vessels.

Stamping a name on the world maritime map

Preparations for receiving Margrethe Maersk were carefully made by the Vietnam Maritime Administration and Maritime Administration of Vung Tau, but the people concerned could not hide their nervousness about the arrival of the giant vessel.

On the morning of February 20, three experienced pilots took charge of guiding the vessel into the harbour including Nguyen Khac Du and Nguyen Dinh Long who are general director and deputy general director of Vung Tau Shipping and Services JSC (Vungtauship) and Pham Trung Tin, director of Vung Tau Pilot Company.

"Theoretically, Cai Mep - Thi Vai terminal is capable of receiving Margrethe, but this is the first time to receive such a huge vessel, so we cannot help but worry. Although we know the terminal by heart, pilots like us still remind each other to be prudent" Du said.

According to international practice, after the canoe carrying Vungtauship pilots drew alongside the Margrethe, Vietnamese pilots boarded the vessel and they began to take on their tasks.

Tin said that pilots and the captain must be constantly updated on all important parameters including the depth and width of the passage, tide, pier depth, vessel speed, waterline, among others before guiding the vessel into the harbour. Despite the support of the tugboat, the process of docking the vessel is also affected by the speed of the wind and water flow. After all of the lanyards are fastened to the wharf, we all felt relieved, Tin noted.

Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Van Cong, one of the first people present at the CMIT to receive the vessel said: "Today is a memorable milestone in Vietnam's maritime industry and CMIT is now inscribed on the world map of ultra large container transport."

The "gold mine" should be woken up

During the fact-finding trip to CMIT in late July 2017, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc once again affirmed the important role of the terminal in the socio-economic development of Ba Ria - Vung Tau province and the Southeast region. If the terminal develops and becomes an international trans-shipment terminal as planned, it will be a "gold mine" that not many countries in the region have.

The deep-water terminal, having operated at less than 30% of its capacity for many years, was a great waste. Chairman of Ba Ria - Vung Tau provincial People's Committee Nguyen Van Trinh said that the province has urged ministries, sectors, and localities to join hands with Ba Ria - Vung Tau to raise the efficiency of the terminal.

Joint efforts needed to make CMIT become a "golden mine" in the future

Trinh noted that the successful reception of mother ships and ships with a capacity of over 100,000 tonnes has proved the capacity of the terminal and the coordination capacity of all agencies concerned. We need solutions to develop the terminal infrastructure network and attract domestic sources of cargo and the sources of trans-shipment from other countries in the region.

Currently, Ba Ria - Vung Tau has seven active container terminals with a total investment of tens of trillions of Vietnamese dong and a total handling capacity of nearly seven million TEUs per year. These terminals also boast a modern scale, advanced equipment, and fast speed of ship release compared to many other terminals in the region.

According to Deputy General Director of Portcoast Consultant Corporation Pham Anh Tuan, if an international trans-shipment centre in Cai Mep - Thi Vai area is formed to directly gather Vietnam’s exports for transport to European and American markets, at least 29% of the container shipments imported and exported through seaports in the South will not be trans-shipped via Singapore or Hong Kong (China) ports. It means a saving of hundreds of millions of US dollars in transit costs.

In the future, if the domestic trans-shipment centre in Cai Mep - Thi Vai is developed synchronously, Vietnam will master its maritime transport which will serve as a base to attract international trans-shipment cargo, bringing Cai Mep - Thi Vai to join the network of major trans-shipment terminals around the world.