Vietnam and the "space" for inland waterway transport
The two major river systems at the two ends of the country- the Red River and the Mekong River (Cuu Long) - have built up alluvium for the delta regions, providing water for domestic use and agriculture for our people throughout history of thousands of years to the present. These two river systems are not only sources of living and energy but also provide intangible values.
Rivers not only create huge “space” for development of agriculture, fisheries, construction (sand and gravel...), hydropower, and tourism... but also water transport (river transport and coastal transport).
Currently, water transport accounts for about 30% of the country’s cargo transport productivity. There were enterprises once ranked first in water transport such as Southern Rivers Corporation, Water Transport Corporation, Rach Gam River Transport Cooperative (Tien Giang), Mua Thu Water Transport Cooperative. (Nam Dinh)... Many water transport enterprises also expand the type of passenger transport by high-speed train, especially tourist transport on the routes as Ha Long - Cat Ba, Hai Phong - Mong Cai, HCMC - Vung Tau, Can Tho - Ca Mau, Rach Gia... to attract many domestic and international visitors.
After the “whirlwind” of equitization, many enterprises gradually lost their brand names. However, there are other “new names” appearing, occupying market share as Saigon Newport.
Regrettably, unchanged comment from managers is “water transport development has not been commensurate with its potential”. According to PhD. Bui Thien Thu- Director of Vietnam’s Inland Waterways Department, waterway transport has not been deeply involved in the container transport chain right in transport routes which have been considered to have many potential advantages as Quang Ninh- Hai Phong- Hanoi- Viet Tri in connection with seaports in Hai Phong, Quang Ninh, transport route connecting the Mekong Delta to seaports in HCMC. In short, we have the space untouched.
Although advantages are not small, there are many challenges. Also according to Thu, our country’s rivers are facing many difficulties: global climate change that causes strong impacts on water resources; increase of population and uncontrolledhuman activities increasingly affecting the natural environment.
This can be seen, due to “conflicts” of interests among economic sectors such as hydropower, exploitation of construction materials, and construction of bridges over rivers with inappropriate clearances... For the Mekong River, it is also “conflicts” of interests of the countries where the river goes through.
Waterway transport green logistics
In recent years, development of green logistics has become one of trends to reduce impacts from logistics on the environment. Green logistics is the goal to create sustainable values when balancing economic efficiency and environmental protection. Currently, many enterprises have been trying to build environmentally friendly supply chains as a competitive advantage in expanding markets and green logistics is one of the basic solutions to help them achieve the goals.
From the reality of road traffic pressure on (more than 90% of the volume of goods transported in the North is via road transport) and the advantage of low freight rates of water transport - an important factor contributing to reducing logistics costs, so exploiting advantages of water transport is always a long-term trend.
The COVID-19 pandemic lasting for two years (2020- 2021) helped strategy planners, enterprises in the logistics value chain and other awaken. They have to look for the solution of waterway transport, taking advantages of rivers, even in the North
On the route of Cam River- Kinh Thay River- Duong River... river port system in many areas, especially in Bac Ninh, has had development as ICD Tan Cang Que Vo, Tri Phuong port... creating a “hub and spoke” model, convenient for goods transshipment and ensuring the continuity of production and supply chain.
In addition, the barge system from 32 - 72 TEUs is also capable of meeting large-scale safe transportation of cargo (even with the river system in the North). According to Thu, rivers in the North have basins suitable for operating barges with large capacity of up to 100 TEUs. Therefore, it is necessary to have a sample point, a sample route for container transportation. Currently, Que Vo Tan Cang not only serves cargo in Bac Ninh province but also for neighboring provinces, which is considered as a model route and a bright spot for transportation exploitation in the Northern region with the safety advantage of this method.
In terms of the environment, benefits of barge transport are reflected in the amount of fuel consumed per ton of cargo transported. In addition, the barge transport routes are often located far away from densely populated areas, which helps to reduce noise and environmental pollution, in line with urbanization planning of the provinces and cities.
For the southern provinces, especially the Mekong Delta, water transport is even more preeminent thanks to the Mekong river system, consisting of two large rivers, the Tien and Hau rivers, which are connected with an interlaced system of canals.
Thu affirmed in order to implement the green transport chain in the local waterway transport, it is necessary to have close coordination of 3 components: State management agencies, localities and enterprises in general, including including associations as well.