Vietnam's maritime economy gets top billing

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Vietnam aims to develop its maritime economy so that the sector contributes more than half to the nation's GDP ten years from now, a senior official of the Vietnam Maritime Administration (VMA) said.

Do Duc Tien, the VMA's deputy director general, said the emphasis would be on shipbuilding, ports, petroleum and seafood to increase the GDP proportion from the current 30 percent or so.

"With the support of foreign and local investors, our maritime economy could contribute 53 to 55 percent of GDP by 2020," Tien said at the 8th ASEAN Ports and Shipping Exhibition and Conference in Ho Chi Minh City last week, which drew experts and potential investors from ten ASEAN nations and several other countries.

He said Vietnam would develop the national shipping fleet to a capacity of 8.5 to 9.5 million deadweight tons able to carry 110 to 126 million tons of commodities annually by 2015, and nearly 13.5 million deadweight tons and double the freight by 2020.

The fleet should be 12 years old on average, he added.

As for ports, Tien said deep sea terminals and other ports would be built and expanded to handle 500 to 600 million tons per year by 2015, and double that by 2020.

According to the Vietnam Maritime Administration, the country's ports handled 251 million tons of incoming freight last year, compared to 181 million tons in 2007.

The nation's shipping output reached 81 million tons last year compared to 61.35 million tons in 2006 and was growing at an annual rate of 15 percent.

The fleet of nearly 1,600 ships totaled 6.3 million deadweight tons last year, compared to 1,200 ships and 4.38 million deadweight tons in 2007.

Ho Kim Lan, secretary general of the Vietnam Seaports Association, said the global economic downturn of late had affected all industries involved in the maritime economy, but they were more optimistic now that the economy was recovering.

He said Vietnamese businesses were strong in port development and maritime services but not in shipping, where they were totally outclassed by the foreign competition.

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