Despite a number of modern container ports with investments of several billion dollars established in its waters, the Cai Mep-Thi Vai area in Vietnam's Ba Ria-Vung Tau province has docked a modest number of ships, reports the state licensed Tuoi Tre News agency.
This grim reality runs counter to the investors' high expectations of developing Ba Ria-Vung Tau into an urban port with high container-loading capacity.
Large ports have been built but the infrastructure serving their operations remains undeveloped, experts said.
According to the Vietnam Port Association (VPA), the total container handling capacity of the ports in Ba Ria-Vung Tau is eight million TEU, while the real demand is for five million TEU, said the report.
In spite of the surplus capacity, the province is set to see several new ports open in 2012, and 2013, VPA said.
According to the provincial Department of Transport, Ba Ria-Vung Tau is now home to 53 ports, 23 of which are operational, while those remaining will be completed soon.
The department also said the total registered investment in the port system in the province by the end of last year was more than US$7 billion, while disbursement was worth $2 billion.
In contrast to the high density of deep-water ports in the area, and the busy atmosphere at the construction sites of the new ports, a gloomy air can be found at the ports most of the time.
On the road leading to the two major ports, Tan Cang-Cai Mep and CMIT, there are hardly any container trucks loading cargo in and out the ports, said the report. There are no vessels loading or unloading goods at the ports' cranes, either.
While the container ports in Ho Chi Minh City are always packed with cargo ships and piles of containers, those in Cai Mep-Thi Vai only have several containers scattered around.
Industry insiders said another reason for the unattractiveness of the ports is that the traffic system and logistics services supporting the ports are underdeveloped.
National route 51, the main road connecting the Cai Mep-Thi Vai area with the main traffic system, has deteriorated, with its surface full of cracks and potholes.
Meanwhile, route 956 connecting route 51 and other major seaports has yet to be completed. Even worse, the project to build roads linking the ports is still no more than a blueprint, said the report.
Since the road traffic infrastructure is incomplete, ship owners now have to use barges to transport their containers to the ports, according to VPA.
"This means of transportation is ineffective as it increases the transporting costs for container owners," said VPA general secretary Ho Kim Lan.
"Ba Ria-Vung Tau has only completed construction of the ports, but totally neglected the completion of road traffic and logistics services."