Vietnam urged to get construction of new mega-airport off the ground

By Huu Nguyen   March 29, 2018 | 08:27 pm PT
Vietnam urged to get construction of new mega-airport off the ground
Layout plan for Long Thanh terminal. Photo by the Airports Corporation of Vietnam.
Experts say the construction cost of Long Thanh Airport could double every five years.

Vietnam needs to speed up the construction of Long Thanh International Airport in the southern province of Dong Nai to address chronic capacity shortages in one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets, according to experts.

The sooner Long Thanh is constructed, the better air travel demand in Vietnam can be met, as the country’s biggest airport Tan Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City is overloaded, said Vo Huy Cuong, vice head of the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam.

Long Thanh will take up the overflow from Tan Son Nhat, which currently receives 32 million passengers a year, far beyond its designed capacity of 25 million.

Some foreign airlines have already cut flights to and from Tan Son Nhat due to the overloading, Cuong added. Russian aviation authorities on March 21 announced they were scrapping a plan to increase the number of Russian flights to the airport.

Etihad Airways has also announced it will be cutting its flights to Tan Son Nhat from 7 to 4 per week from April 15 due to access difficulties for its planes.

In addition to meeting increasing air travel demand, the construction of Long Thanh should be accelerated to avoid a cost hike, said experts.

Do Tat Binh, vice general director of the Airports Corporation of Vietnam, said the cost for the first phase of Long Thanh may increase to $10 billion from the current estimation of $5.4 if it is delayed by five years.

Long Thanh will be built in three phases over three decades. The first part is scheduled for completion in 2025 and will be able to handle 25 million passengers a year. The next two phases will run from 2030 to 2035 and from 2040 to 2050.

Binh cited the case of Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport and Tan Son Nhat Airport. The construction of a new terminal at Tan Son Nhat that went into operation in 2007 required an investment of only $200 million. Seven years later, the construction of a terminal at Noi Bai required an investment of $800 million, and it was only 40 percent larger than the Tan Son Nhat terminal, he said.

Despite affirming the importance of accelerating the construction of Long Thanh Airport, experts are concerned about site clearance complications and funding for the project, because of the huge investment requirements.

The construction of Long Thanh airport could cost a total of $16 billion, and site clearance alone will cost an estimated VND23 trillion ($1 billion).

Currently, the state has only earmarked VND5 trillion for site clearance, or 21.7 percent of the projected cost. That figure includes money to build houses for around 5,000 people who will need to be relocated.

Long Thanh, which will cover 5,000 hectares (12,400 acres), is expected to replace Tan Son Nhat as the country’s largest airport with an annual capacity of 100 million passengers and five million tons of cargo.

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