Since March the State Inspectorate has probed financial irregularities in the national fishing port upgrade projects that reportedly lost trillions of dong mostly provided by soft loans from the Asian Development Bank and other institutions.
The State Inspectorate investigated nine fishing ports of Ca Mau (Ca Mau province), Tran De (Soc Trang), Tac Cau (Kien Giang), Con Dao, Cat Lo (Ba Ria-Vung Tau), Phan Thiet (Binh Thuan), Thuan Phuoc (Da Nang), Song Gianh (Quang Binh), and Thuan An (Thua Thien-Hue). The inspectors found irregularities and wrongdoings in construction and investment of these fishing ports.
The Thuan An fishing port of the central province of Thua Thien-Hue was invested 24.094 billion dong for its construction works. The development of the Cat Lo port of the coastal central province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau also cost US$13 million, equivalent to 145 billion dong. Whilst, total investment poured into seven remaining ports mounts to US$71.4 million, in which almost US$57 million is funded by ADB loans and the balance of US$14.4 million is reciprocal capital from Vietnamese partners.
The development of these seven fishing ports is to provide more berthing for 3,500 boats and to lift the fishing capacity through ports to 35,000 tonnes a year. This effort is considered to tap efficiently potential of offshore fishing in order to protect source of income from sea, protect sea environment and supply works for local inhabitants.
Despite such huge investment, as stated by the inspectorate, the design consultancy and investment decision of building some fishing ports is considered not reasonable in terms of scale of development and location. Moreover, it is found that the equipment purchase for purpose of developing these fishing ports was unrealistic and caused a loss of 52 billion dong.
For example, Cat Lo fishing port of which total estimated investment approved by the fisheries ministry and balance sheet approved by finance ministry is 218.655 billion dong. However, an inter-agency assessment committee evaluated it should have cost only 76.654 billion dong, almost 146 billion dong less than its officially approved investment amount. The Ca Mau fishing port, which is invested more than seven billion dong to develop two large wharfs was finally just used as fishing market since it is built in the wrong place. In additional, some 18.471 billion dong which was spent on buying handling equipment and machinery for the port sat idle as almost all the fishing vessels using the wharfs were small local-water fishing boats and very low tonnage was handled at the port.
Among the nine inspected fishing ports, the ports of Tran De, Phan Thiet and Ca Mau are found with low quality. The assessment documents of hydrograph, meteorology and topography serving the port development design are not reliant enough and they contributed to low quality in technical solutions and construction structure of the port. Meanwhile, low quality construction of the Ca Mau fishing wharf resulted in the concrete surface of the wharf crumbling away and subsidence of some parts which is continuing to sink.
After three years of operation, the Ca Mau fishing port has received no large sized fishing boat or ship. Almost 2,000 small trading craft and small boats to ferry tourists use the wharf thus the port is only operating at 1.21% of design capacity in which capacity of handling seafood catches reached just 4.43% of design capacity. The actual operational capacity of the Tran De port also reached 3.1% of the designed capacity and it is unable to improve the situation as many items of the port were unreasonably designed and developed.