Bold move as Vietnam plans huge transshipment port
So why does a Vietnam port want to attract 17,000 TEU ships anyway?
It is difficult to see how Vietnam will need a transshipment port with the ability to handle ships of 17,000 TEU capacities. In fact, it is difficult to see how the world will need ships of that outrageous size.
Business will certainly improve and ships will fill up again, but the thought of anyone actually building a 17,000 TEU ship makes sense only after swallowing an industrial amount of Scotland’s finest single malt.
Here’s the story: Vietnam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines) announced recently that it had officially launched the construction of the Van Phong international transshipment port in the central province of Khanh Hoa on October 31.
It will cost US$3.6 billion and have 33 wharves and an area of 1,280 hectares. The first of four stages will be online by 2013 and the last stage will be up and running by 2015.
Van Phong will be the country’s only transshipment port and it forms part of the government’s general plan to improve the seaport system by 2020.
For a transshipment port to work, especially one as big as Van Phong, it needs huge container throughput volume. That means Van Phong will be competing directly with the world’s biggest and most established transshipment port of Singapore, a days sailing south.
The Vietnam port will also need a vigorous feeder network to supply the large container ships making direct calls on the major intercontinental trade lanes. There is no economic point in cargo being fed into Van Phong then being transshipped again in Singapore.
Transshipment has long been Vietnam’s biggest problem. A lack of deepwater ports has kept the larger vessels from making direct calls, and any extra handling of containers quickly adds to their cost of transport.
However, as outsourcing increases and export volumes rise, shipping lines and terminal operators are showing keen interest in Vietnam. APM Terminals and Vinalines are partners in the Cai Mep International Container Terminal south of Ho Chin Minh City and are scheduled to open a 1.1 million TEU port in the fourth quarter of 2010, and APL, Hanjin Shipping and MOL set up direct services between Cai Mep and the US West Coast earlier this year.
Vietnam is beginning to show up frequently as a second manufacturing choice to China and carriers are adjusting services accordingly and adding ports such as Cai Mep to their strings.
But it will be a long time before a 17,000 TEU ship hits the water, if ever, and even if that happens it is unlikely that the transshipment port of Van Phong will prove an attractive port of call.