Vietnam in desperate need of new international airport

TN News

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A view at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport. Photo by Doc Lap

Now is the time to build a new airport to ease the burden on HCMC's Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Vietnam's aviation officials agreed at a conference in Hanoi held earlier this week.

"We should have started construction by now, in order to have the first phase completed by 2020," said Nguyen Nguyen Hung, board chairman of state-owned Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV), which manages Vietnam's 22 civil airports, at the conference held by the Ministry of Transport.

The planned airport is located 40 kilometers outside Ho Chi Minh City in the Dong Nai Province's Long Thanh District.

Tran Quang Chau, chairman of the Aviation Science and Technology Association said the project should be given "top priority," given the demand for domestic air travel and Vietnam's ambition to make Long Thanh Southeast Asia's next major transit hub.

Hung said a final draft of the Japan Airports Consultants' report must be completed quickly so that the government can submit it to the National Assembly for approval at its upcoming October session.

If approved, construction could begin next year, he said.

According to the report, Tan Son Nhat International Airport was not designed to handle the 20-25 million annual passengers it's on pace to deal with from 2018-2020, making it crucial a new airport be built in Long Thanh.

The report estimates the proposed 5,000-hectare airport in Long Thanh, which would be 40 kilometers northeast of HCMC's Tan Son Nhat, would be capable of serving 25 million passengers annually with its initial two runways.

When construction of a third runway is completed in 2030, it would be able to handle 52 million passengers each year.

After 2030, its eventual four runways would be able to serve 100 million passengers and handle five million tons of cargo, and be capable of completely replacing Tan Son Nhat, according to the report.

Tan Son Nhat, currently the country's largest airport, handles 12 million passengers and 278,000 tons of cargo annually.

Singapore's Changi Airport handles over 50 million passengers and 1.8 million tons of cargo a year; Thailand's Suvarnabhumi Airport has a capacity of 45 million passengers and three million tons of cargo a year.

The Japanese consultant company provided a scenario for the Long Thanh airport that would have it handle 80 percent of international flights and 10 percent of domestic flights that currently route in and out of HCMC.

Tan Son Nhat, which was a military base during the Vietnam War, would eventually be used mostly to ferry domestic passengers and the remaining 20 percent of international flights.

The consultant said the scenario could create favorable conditions to supplant Tan Son Nhat with Long Thanh airport by 2030.

Tan Son Nhat could become a back-up airport, or it could be closed, the report said.

The total cost to construct the new Long Thanh airport has been estimated at US$7.8 billion.

In the first phase of construction, the cost would be more than $5.6 billion, more than half of which would come from Official Development Assistance (ODA) loans and the state budget, according to Hung.

The rest would be funded by the private sector, he said.

Dong Nai's provincial government said more than 10,000 local residents would have their land revoked to make way for the project.

The local government has asked that VND470 billion ($22.1 million) be allocated to those residents as compensation and more than VND6.6 trillion ($310 million) be spent to build a resettlement area for them.

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