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New canal to be dug to link Mekong Delta with East Sea

Hanoi: The Vietnam Maritime Administration plans to dig a nine-kilometer canal and dredge an existing one to link Can Tho in the Mekong Delta with the sea to boost exports, according to local media.

Drafted together with Portcoast Consultant Corporation and to be submitted to the government soon, the plan envisages creating a 40-kilometer waterway to the East Sea.

The new canal will be dug in Vinh Long Province while the 19-kilometer Quan Chanh Bo canal will be deepened.

Ships will then enter the Hau River in Can Tho and go through Quan Chanh Bo and the new canal to reach the sea.

The work, which would allow 10,000-20,000 DWT (dead weight ton) ships to pass through, would cost VND3.15 trillion (US$186 million), the administration, known as Vinamarine, said.

The Dinh An River, which now links Can Tho and other ports along the Hau River with the East Sea, can only accommodate vessels of less than 5,000 DWT and is badly affected by silting most of the year.

As a result, 70 percent of the delta's 17 million tons of export and import every year has to be transported by road to ports in Ho Chi Minh City.

The delta is home to Vietnam's largest exporters of rice and other agricultural produce and seafood.

Imports to the delta arrive by the same circuitous route.

Exporters estimate that transporting a container of goods from Can Tho to HCMC costs up to $200, doubling the cost of transporting it to Singapore.

The delta, therefore, urgently needs a water transport route, experts and officials told a conference held in Can Tho Monday.

Luu Phuoc Luong, deputy director of a government committee for developing the southwestern region, said the new route "will have a decisive impact on the social and economic development of the Mekong Delta."

Vinamarine said both waterways are expected to help transport up to 22 million tons and 500,000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) of cargo from and to the 12 delta provinces and Can Tho City every year from 2010 onwards.

The new waterway would carry 60 percent of all the cargo transported by 2030, it said.

Professor Luong Phuong Hau, vice chairman of a local port and waterway association, told delegates the proposal is feasible.

But he called for more studies to collect more comprehensive data and ensure the new route would not worsen the silting in the Hau Rriver. [2/12/08]


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