Poor port access puts paid to HCMC-Con Dao boat service

By Gia Minh, Le Tuyet   July 9, 2024 | 10:48 pm PT
Poor port access puts paid to HCMC-Con Dao boat service
The high-speed vessel Thang Long that links Ho Chi Minh City and Con Dao docks at Hiep Phuoc Port in Nha Be District, HCMC. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
The HCMC - Con Dao high-speed boat service faces the axe after the lack of access to its port in HCMC made it difficult to attract passengers.

After two months of operations, the giant high-speed vessel Thang Long, the largest used in the country with a capacity of 1,017 passengers, will stop sailing on July 29.

The main reason cited by Phu Quoc Express, its operator, is that the route’s performance did not meet expectations.

It was difficult for passengers to travel from the city to Hiep Phuoc Port in the outlying Nha Be District, it said.

Vu Van Khuong, CEO of Phu Quoc Express, said each trip was filled to less than 50% of capacity.

The vessel only carried around 200 passengers on weekdays and 600-700 on weekends, below the expected rate of 70-80% and also less than on the Vung Tau - Con Dao route, where boats have a similar capacity, he said.

But there were no complaints about the boat or on-board service, he said.

The main issue was the inconvenience related to traveling to and boarding at the port in HCMC, given that it is over 20 km from the city center, he said.

The city did arrange shuttle buses but just a few a day, meaning people had to drive all the way or spend money on ride-hailing services.

Thanh Nam, 28, who visited Con Dao in May, has a litany of complaints about accessing the high-speed vessel.

"The service on the boat is relatively good, but the journey from the city center to Hiep Phuoc port is quite challenging," he said.

It took him and his friends nearly an hour by motorcycles from District 3 to the port. They often had to check the map as they were unfamiliar with the route. From the motorcycle parking lot to the port is over a kilometer, and most people have to walk with their luggage since few shuttle buses are available.

A cafeteria on the Thang Long high-speed vessel. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

A cafeteria on the Thang Long high-speed vessel. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

On the return trip, it is hard to find transportation back to the city because the port is too remote for ride-hailing and other drivers to come all the way there.

"It is difficult enough for someone like me, who is from the city," Nam said to refer to the plight of tourists from afar and older people.

"They would not want this experience."

Nguyen Kim Toan, director of Saigon Waterbus, said given the connectivity issues for Hiep Phuoc port, it would be a big challenge for businesses to ensure efficiency and revenues.

Marine operations depend on the weather and the service could not continue all year, especially during the stormy season at the end of the year.

"To compensate, the average occupancy rate per trip needs to be over 60% to ensure profitability."

He said authorities need to work with businesses to address infrastructure and connectivity issues at the port.

He also said they should consider the use of Ben Nghe Port in District 4 near the downtown area in place of Hiep Phuoc.

But Khuong said this had been considered earlier and discarded since the Thang Long is a large vessel, and would create large waves that affect other vessels and the riverbanks if it entered city waters.

So it has to slow down, which would delay travel time, he said.

After ceasing operations, the Thang Long boat would ply on the Vung Tau - Con Dao route to meet the increasing demand there, he said.

The company is looking for a suitable solution to resume operations soon, he added.

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