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Vietnam

Vietnam Shows Big Ambitions In Sprawling New Port Project

Haiphong, the third largest Vietnamese city, could become a new Asian transport hub to compete with Hong Kong and Singapore.

The port of Haiphong, set to become one of the main gateways in and out for north Vietnam.
The port of Haiphong, set to become one of the main gateways in and out for north Vietnam.
Michel de Grandi

HAIPHONG — The ship leaves the city of Haiphong behind, headed towards the Red River Delta. The contrast between the two riverbanks is striking. On one side, a never-ending line of boats are waiting to unload at the wharf. On the other, there is nothing but a preserved site. The sea is more than 15 kilometers downstream, and visitors need a lot of imagination to picture what a greatly expanded Haiphong port will look like in 2025.

Today, this sea access is crammed, but a series of projects are expected to transform it into a vast complex equipped with, among other things, a deep water port. Construction began in 2013, and it is scheduled to open in 2016 or early 2017.

The new port, which will be called Lach Huyen Port, will eventually allow ships over 80,000 tons — as opposed to the current 15,000 to 20,000 tons — to stop in Haiphong, some 100 kilometers from the capital Hanoi. The project includes the construction of more 10 kilometers of docks along a channel with a draft up to 14 meters. Financed in part by Japanese funds, the plans also involves building a 9-kilometer bridge, the connection by highway to Hanoi and power plants, sewage treatment plants, etc.

These installations are only a small part of a much bigger development plan to build industrial parks inspired by those created in 1997 in Dinh Vu, which is home to investors such as Knauf, Chevron, Shinetsu and, more recently, Bridgestone.

Fortified by its first successful experience in Dinh Vu, the Belgian company Rent-A-Port has been entrusted with the development of 1,800 hectares (4,448 acres) of these new industrial parks around the deep water port.

The interest in the Red River Delta stems from the fact that the area has 40 million inhabitants and many companies. "We position ourselves where there's a market," explains David Thomas, general manager of the Vietnam-based branch of German company Knauf, which is investing 30 million euros in a new factory.

Multinational corporations like Samsung are turning Vietnam into one of the support bases for their production. For that, the South Korean company was granted significant tax advantages. Still, those are offered "on a case-by-case basis, nothing is automatic," says Nicolas Audier, a French lawyer who has been living in Asia for more than 20 years.

Creating a new hub

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Dead And Disappeared: A Village Emerges From 72 Days Of Russian Occupation

Russian forces have been pushed out of the area around Kharkiv. Villages that were occupied for two months are free once more — but utterly destroyed. And thousands of people have disappeared without a trace.

Kharkiv and the surrounding villages faced weeks of constant Russian shelling.

Alfred Hackensberger

TSYKRUNY — Andriy Kluchikov uses a walking stick, but is otherwise fairly sprightly for a 94-year-old. Under his black wool hat, Kluchikov seems fearless as he surveys his hometown in northeastern Ukraine. “The missiles don't scare me,” he says with a smile. “I have slept in my own bed every night and never went down into the basement.”

As for the two-meter-wide bomb crater that has appeared in his garden, between the vegetable patch and the greenhouse with its shattered plastic roof, Kluchikov almost seems proud. “No one can intimidate me,” he says. “Not even the Russians.”

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In the early days of the war, in February, Russian artillery almost completely destroyed this village of Tsyrkuny, near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city. Only a few houses, including his own, were left undamaged. Shortly afterwards, Russian troops marched into the village and occupied it for 72 days. It was not until early this week that the Ukrainian army was able to liberate Tsyrkuny and many other areas to the north of the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

It is the Ukrainians’ most successful counter-offensive so far. They are thought to have pushed the invading troops back almost to the Russian border. “The offensive is gaining momentum,” according to the independent American thinktank Institute for the Study of War. “It has forced Russian troops on the defensive and has successfully alleviated artillery pressure on Kharkiv City.”

In the modern city of Kharkiv, home to around 1.5 million residents, the relief has been palpable over the last few days. Restaurants and cafes have reopened. People are walking and riding bikes in the parks, and couples are strolling hand in hand, enjoying the warm spring sunshine. You can still hear the artillery, but it is now many miles away.

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