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Vietnam Seaports: Foreign Investors Guide 2024

Vietnam’s seaports, like Vietnam’s airports, have been a critical component to logistics in Vietnam and subsequently in Vietnam’s economic development. They are the main entry point for most foreign imports and the main exit point for most manufactured goods made in Vietnam. As such they facilitate millions of dollars of trade via sea freight every day, and they have commanded huge amounts of public investment spurring the country’s economic growth.

That said, Vietnam intends to keep growing its economy, its manufacturing sector in particular. This means it will soon need to expand some of its seaports and maybe even add more. This, however, will take huge amounts of money as well as expertise and support. With this in mind, this guide runs through Vietnam’s key seaports, their needs and Vietnam’s development plans.

Organisational structure of seaports in Vietnam

Ministry of Transport of Vietnam

Vietnam’s Ministry of Transport–or MoT–is the top-level, overarching, government body responsible for Vietnam seaports. It is responsible for reporting on the development of Vietnam’s maritime transport industry to the National Assembly and manages the broad-strokes planning and development of the sector.

Vietnam Maritime Administration

The Vietnam Maritime Administration–or the VMA–falls under the purview of the MoT. It handles the finer details of maritime transport planning and development. For example, it develops draft legislation and regulations, establishes standards and is responsible for overseeing their implementation.

Vietnam Seaports Association

The Vietnam Seaports Association–or the VSA–is the peak industry body representing Vietnam’s seaports. It functions as an advocate for the industry as well as an industry consultant for the government on policies and regulations.

Main Vietnam seaports

Quang Ninh Seaport

Quang Ninh Port in the northeast of Vietnam boasts five berths with a draft of 11.7 metres. Furthermore, it has 29,400 square metres of warehouse space and can accommodate vessels with a dead-eight-tonnage up to 85,000. It claims a cargo throughput of more than eight million tons a year.

Of note, Vietnam has become a popular final-stage assembly location for Chinese firms looking to reduce costs with labour in Vietnam typically cheaper than in China. Quang Ninh, in particular, with its proximity to China has made this port particularly popular for firms pursuing this cost-reduction strategy.

Port of Hai Phong

The Port of Hai Phong is the biggest port in northern Vietnam with 36,600 square metres of warehouse space. It has 21 berths with its deepest draft at 9.4 metres and can accommodate vessels with a dead-eight-tonnage of up to 50,000. Of note, it is currently listed on Vietnam’s Unlisted Public Companies Exchange.

Da Nang Port

Da Nang Port is the biggest seaport in central Vietnam. It covers nearly 300,000 square metres including 29,204 square metres of warehouse space. It has 9 berths and a maximum draft of 12 metres. Furthermore, it can accommodate vessels with a dead-eight-tonnage of up to 50,000. It reportedly handles up to 12 million tons of cargo a year.

Cai Mep Port

The Cai Mep Port is the biggest port in southern Vietnam with the ability to accept ships with a dead-weight-tonnage up to 214,121. The project is a joint venture between Saigon Newport Corporation, Japan’s MOL Shipping Lines, Taiwan’s Wait Han Lines, and South Korea’s Hanjin. Just a few clicks south of Ho Chi Minh City, it is one of the biggest seaports in the world handling 56 million tons of cargo a year.

Investing in seaports in Vietnam

Foreign investment in seaports in Vietnam is detailed in Decree 140/2007/ND-CP, Article 5. Most of the clauses under this article expired in 2014, however, the fist clause does still stand. This limits investment in container handling services to 50 percent.

See also: Vietnam’s Foreign Ownership Limits 2024: Transport and Logistics 

Developing seaports in Vietnam

With Vietnam’s external trade growing at break-neck speed, the demand for more and bigger ports is clear. As such a master plan has been developed that outlines a number of key projects. 

In addition to the Master Plan Decision 886/QD-TTg also details about US$6.5 billion worth of port projects that will require private capital.

Port projects requiring private investment, 2021 to 2030

2021 – 20252026 – 2030
Project NameVNDUS$VNDUS$
Wharf No. 3, 4 in Lach Huyen Wharf Area *6,932$272,324,313$0
Port No. 5 and 6 belong to Lach Huyen Port Area *8,340$327,637,734611$24,003,196
Wharf No. 7, 8 in Lach Huyen Wharf Area*12,792$502,534,999$0
Nam Do Son Wharf Area (start-up phase)15,000$589,276,500$0
Lien Chieu port area (start-up phase)6,483$254,685,303$0
Tran De Port Area – Soc Trang (start-up phase)50,000$1,964,255,000$0
Next terminals Lach Huyen terminal area$015,000$589,276,500
Nghi Son Port Expansion – Thanh Hoa$07,600$298,566,760
Cai Mep Ha Port and Logistics Area$023,000$903,557,300
Total99,5473,910,713,85046,2111,815,403,756
*Are ongoing investment projects.

Source: Decision 886/QD-TTg 

What’s next?

Vietnam’s seaports have become incredibly important to the country’s economic development and are likely to become even more important moving forward. Though foreign direct investment in seaports, specifically container handling services, in Vietnam is limited to 50 percent there are a broad range of ancillary services foreign firms can invest in and develop–warehouse and shipping maintenance services, for example.

These projects, however, are often few and far between and requirements and planning can often change on a dime.  In this light, foreign investors interested in seaport development in Vietnam can best keep up-to-date with what is happening in the sector by subscribing to the-shiv.

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