S Korean contractor slammed for delay in opening major Vietnam bridge

By Cuu Long   October 4, 2018 | 02:08 am PT
S Korean contractor slammed for delay in opening major Vietnam bridge
Vam Cong Bridge, a major connection in Vietnam's Mekong Delta, is expected to be finished by early 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Cuu Long
Authorities have criticized a South Korean contractor’s "disrespectful" attitude as it delays work on a major bridge in southern Vietnam.

They allege that the contractor has dragged its feet on fixing a crack on the Vam Cong Bridge in the Mekong Delta.

The Ministry of Transport had ordered that a crack on the Vam Cong Bridge, a major link between the Mekong Delta and the outside world, must be fixed by late this year so that the bridge would be ready for traffic by early next year.

But the project’s main contractor, South Korea’s GS E&C, said at a meeting convened by the ministry on Tuesday that the repairing process has fallen behind schedule only by almost two months.

GS E&C explained that it was facing financial difficulties as it had not been paid any value added tax refund or insurance coverage for the project.

“We have spent a lot on the repair work and are trying to speed up the progress,” a representative of GS E&C told the meeting.

But the project’s investor, Cuu Long Corporation for Investment, Development and Project Management of Infrastructure (Cuu Long CIPM), a state-owned firm managed by the transport ministry, told another story.

Its general director Tran Van Thi said repair work at a cracked girder at Vam Cong Bridge has been delayed because the South Korean contractor “did not take drastic enough measures” and “was not active enough.”

He said that GS E&C has failed to guide the project’s sub-contractor, Vietnam’s Thanh Long Corporation, to fix the problem in time. Thi said Thanh Long did not assign enough welders for the project and spent way more time than needed in getting 100 tons of steel.

“The project’s consultant and Cuu Long CIPM repeatedly sent reports and documents pushing GS E&C but the contractor did not respect the main investor,” he said.

He suggested that the ministry bans the two contractors from joining any projects managed by the ministry after their work at Vam Cong Bridge is done.

Le Kim Thanh, head of the ministry’s Transport Engineering Construction and Quality Management Bureau, said the bridge has not been done yet and thus the task of fixing any problems now lie at the main contractor.

The ministry organized a meeting with the bridge's investor and invited GS E&C to come over on September 10 but the South Korean firm did not show up.

“We do not understand the way GS E&C works,” Thanh said.

Deputy Minister Nguyen Nhat said the ministry has transferred enough investment in foreign currency to the contractor and for counterpart funding from the state budget to cover value added tax, the ministry has already given VND40 billion ($1.7 million) for the Vam Cong project.

Regarding insurance coverage, the ministry has worked with the insurance firm that is in charge of the project to ensure that the loss would be as smallest as it could for the South Korean contractor, Nhat said.

"The project is not yet finished and the contractor has the responsibility to complete its task. It is unacceptable that the contractor blames the lack of investment or insurance coverage for the delay in its work,” he said.

S.Korean contractor blamed for late repair of Vietnams major bridge

A ferry operates on the Hau River to bring passengers to and from Dong Thap Province and Can Tho City in the Mekong Detla in southern Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Minh Nga

The Vam Cong Bridge will stretch nearly three kilometers across the Hau River to connect Dong Thap Province and Can Tho City in the Mekong Delta. The $271 million project is funded with official development assistance (ODA) from South Korea. 

With construction beginning in September 2013, the bridge was initially set to open in late 2017, replacing local ferries, but a crack four centimeters wide and two meters long was detected at one of its girders in November that year.

Once completed, Vam Cong Bridge will play a key role in traffic circulation in the region because most transportation within the Mekong Delta and between the Mekong Delta and the outside world is made through this section of the Hau River, a branch of the Mekong River in Vietnam.

Transportation here has depended on the ferries for years and with increasing travel demand, especially during special occasions like holidays and rush hours, traffic jams can last for hours at the ferry terminal.

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