Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Exports to Cambodia hit potholes in Mekong Delta

A steel shop in HCMC.
Businesses have complained of the excessive cost of transporting export goods from Ho Chi Minh City to Cambodia because of the appalling condition of the roads in the Mekong Delta.

The excessive costs discourage domestic firms who want to expand their business into the neighboring country, they said.

Hoang Hai, a car driver who delivers goods from HCMC to Mekong Delta’s border provinces of An Giang and Kien Giang, said the road, Highway No. 80, was very rough.

It takes eight hours to drive 290 kilometers from HCMC to Tinh Bien border gate in An Giang Province, and 10-11 hours to Ha Tien border gate in Kien Giang Province, which is 340 kilometers, he said.

Vehicles on the highway can average 65-70 kilometers per hour so if the highway was better it would only take four hours to travel to Tinh Bien and five hours to Ha Tien.

Traffic is held up repeatedly by construction work along the highway, Hai said, adding many vehicles also got bogged in the worst sections.

Twelve bridges on Highway No. 80 are in danger of collapsing, restricting vehicles over 20 tons from using them, according to Road Management Zone No. 7.

The bridge problems hit exporters hardest putting transport fees for one ton of iron from HCMC to Tinh Bien border gate up to VND700,000 (US$42), steel and iron exporter Hong Phuc Ltd.’s Nguyen Thien Chi said.

Trucking firms said they were cautious about delivering goods to Mekong Delta because the rough roads damage their trucks.

Drivers said they usually drove in fear that they’d hit a big pothole caused by last years flood, but the upgrade for No. 80 is still waiting for Ministry of Transportation’s instruction.

Canal hidden dangers

An official from a domestic steel exporter, Hoang Dung, said the volume of exported construction materials to Cambodia would increase when dredging was done on Vinh Te Canal, which leads to the Tinh Bien border gate in An Giang Province.

An Giang Province has begun a VND2 billion ($119,000) dredging project in the canal.

They expect to clear it by next month so vessels over 500 tons can use the waterway.

At present only barges of 250 tons and less can use it, because there are many submerged rocks and snags.

In addition canal loading fees of VND75,000 per ton ($4.50), push the cost of transport up, impacting export business’s competitiveness.

An investor, who wanted to be anonymous, has agreed to help the provincial authority build a port on the canal to speed up shipping.

An Giang Province Custom Office bureau director Le Viet Thai said infrastructure at border areas had improved at a snails pace over the past five years.

Thai said it was also time that the eight ton rated Huu Nghi Bridge on Vinh Te Canal was upgraded.

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