Vietnam’s rivers and coastal routes connect with those in neighbouring countries, opening up opportunities for cross-border waterway transport cooperation and socio-economic benefits for the countries. Over the past time, Vietnam has actively promoted international cooperation in inland waterway transport.
- Effective cooperation with Cambodia
According to the Vietnam Inland Waterway Administration, in 2009, Vietnam and Cambodia signed the Agreement on Waterway Transport, which came into force in 2011, to establish a legal framework for the effective implementation of freedom of navigation in the Mekong River system for the sustainable development of the river basin, creating favourable conditions for transit and cross-border navigation activities on regulated waterways.
Ta Van Thanh, deputy head of the Transport Department under the administration, said that since the agreement took effect in 2021, the two countries have completed procedures for nearly 78,000 vessels and more than 406,000 crew members. This also includes the passage of nearly 20 million tonnes of goods and nearly 1.3 million passengers for using the cross-border waterway routes, contributing to socio-economic development and friendship between the two countries.
Cargo volume through the routes is increasing, especially the container cargo increases by 20% yearly on average. In 2021, nearly 350,000 TEUs and more than 800,000 tonnes of liquid and bulk cargo were transported on the routes. By 2022, the volume reached about 400,000 TEUs and nearly 1 million tonnes of liquid and bulk cargo. In the first two months of 2023, the volume of goods transported through this route reached over 150,000 tonnes.
Vietnamese transport and loading enterprises earn about 60 million USD yearly in profit, let alone their impact on creating jobs.
According to the administration, waterway routes between Vietnam and Cambodia not only help enhance trade and cooperation between the two countries but also serve businesses and develop the two economies.
Therefore, over the years, the authority has always actively coordinated with relevant agencies and units to remove difficulties and create favourable conditions for navigation activities between the two countries.
The administration proposed the Ministry of Finance issue a circular dated August 27, 2021, that allows waterway vessels to pay waterway fees that are 10-11 times lower than the international shipping toll.
It also proposed Ho Chi Minh City on fees for using works, infrastructure, service works, and public utilities in the seaport border gate area in the city.
The city issued a resolution on this issue, under which fees are exempted from August 1, 2022, for goods that are temporarily imported for re-export, goods that are temporarily exported for re-import, goods stored in bonded warehouses, goods in transit, exported goods/imported goods that are transported into and out of the port by the vessels that are eligible to use the waterway routes under the Vietnam-Cambodia agreement.
According to economic experts, these regulations have created great advantages for waterway transport enterprises, reducing logistics costs in general, and attracting goods on the route.
In particular, up to now, on this transport route, there have been about 100 transportation enterprises, organisations, and individuals offering services on the routes including SNP, Gemadept, GLS, and Tan Cang Cypress.
However, for sustainable development of the waterway routes, economic experts said that authorities should soon implement solutions including reviewing regulations on inspection and supervision of goods in transit, simplifying administrative procedures, and saving time and logistics costs.
*Cooperation potential with Laos
During the official visit to Laos earlier this year, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and Lao Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone witnessed the signing ceremony of 10 cooperation documents including a comprehensive cooperation agreement in the field of waterway transport between Vietnam’s Ministry of Transport and the Laos’s Ministry of Public Works and Transport.
In the Laos’s waterway transport system, the Mekong River is the main waterway with more than 1,800 km running through the territory including nearly 1,000 km utilised for transport activities, 29 ports, more than 500 cargo vessels, and more than 4,000 passenger ones.
Some areas have great potential to connect logistics with Vietnam such as the port area of Vientiane which is connected to Vung Ang port of Vietnam via the Laos – Vietnam railway. This is a proposed railway project to further boost Laos’s ambitions to become a regional logistics hub. The port of Vung Ang, located in Vietnam’s Ha Tinh province that borders the Bolikhamsai and Khammouane provinces of Laos, will give the land-locked country an important access to the East Sea as well as major markets of the Republic of Korea, Japan, and others.
Laos has great potential for waterway transport, and the opportunity to expand connectivity and cooperation with Vietnam. However, human resources, infrastructure, and equipment are still limited. Therefore, according to the Vietnam Inland Waterway Administration, the recently-signed comprehensive cooperation agreement will help support Laos from 2022 to 2027 in waterway transport activities.
The implementation of this agreement not only supports Laos but also promotes cross-border transport and logistics between the two countries.
In 2023 and the years that follow, the Vietnam Inland Waterway Administration will continue to effectively implement international cooperation in the waterways sector particular those with Laos and Cambodia, according to the representative from the administration./.