A squeeze on funds is forcing the South Korean government to slash port development projects, in some cases for several years.
Officials at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries said Tuesday that construction will be deferred until after 2006 on two large harbor developments - Poryong in South Chungchong province and Saemangum in North Cholla province.The government will cut the scope of work in seven other ports - Pusan, Kwangyang, Inchon, Pyongtaek, Mokpo, Ulsan and Pohang-Yongil.
The number of new berths will be trimmed, to 211 from 236 by the year 2011. A ministry spokesman said this should reduce expenditures, to 17 trillion won ($12.5 billion) from 17.4 trillion.
The number of new berths coming into service by 2001 will plunge, to 20 from an original 83, with costs cut to 4.17 trillion won from 6.4 trillion.
The ministry said the cutbacks are in anticipation of a decline in marine traffic.
The government originally planned to invest nearly $6 billion in new berths at Pusan, the country's main and often congested sea gateway, and on adjacent Kadok Island to cut waiting time and increase capacity.
There are plans for a new port at Masan, just west of the Pusan on the southeastern coast. It would have 26 berths with capacity for 15 million metric tons of goods a year, up from 8 million now. There would be 1.8 million square feet of backup space.
Plans call for expenditure of 930 billion won, of which the private sector is expected to pay 830 billion. Pusan and Kwangyang, on the south coast beyond Masan, are slated for privatization. The only private operations so far at Pusan are quasi-government Pusan Container Terminal Operation Corp. and Pusan East Container Terminal Co., which handles some bulk cargo.
The ministry reportedly signed an agreement with PSA Corp. of Singapore to invest in development at Inchon, just west of Seoul. The Korea Times said PSA - the former Port of Singapore Authority - will work with Samsung Trading Co. No details were available.
Separately, the ministry said it would open the sea route between South Korea's Inchon and Pusan and the Russia's Nakhodka and Vladivostok. There are two operators now from each country - a joint venture between Hyundai Merchant Marine Co. and its local partner; and Russia's Far Eastern Shipping Co. They each run one container vessel.
Shippers complain about high freight fees and difficulties in scheduling. The ministry spokesman said it wants multiple companies to sail the route.