South or north? Expanding Tan Son Nhat International Airport

16:16 | 05/03/2018
There are many arguments related to the solutions proposed by ADPi and local organisations to expand Tan Son Nhat International Airport.
south or north expanding tan son nhat international airport
Solutions of expanding Tan Son Nhat will be submitted to the government for final decision later this month

ADPi is a French company specialised in airport architechture and engineering. This company was appointed as the consultant contractor to draw up the plan of Tan Son Nhat airport in Octorber 2017. ADPi proposed enlarging the airport to the north and south but limiting its capacity to 50 million passengers by 2025 to avoid the need for a new runway. It said the construction of a new runway would be expensive and cause increased environmental and noise pollution.

Instead, the company proposed building a new terminal with the capacity of 20 million passengers at the southern end of the airport and more cargo terminals and plane maintenance facilities in the north.

Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City has been already able to handle 36 million passengers per year, way above its design capacity, according to ADPi.

According to ADPi, the airport should be prepared to handle 51 million passengers and one million tonnes of cargo per year by 2025. Under the proposal, the expansion would cost over VND30 trillion ($1.3 billion), excluding site clearance costs.

The proposal is similar to one made by the Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) Airport Design and Construction Company (ADCC), which also included new terminals, parking areas, and technical facilities, while leaving out the construction of a new runway.

Under ADCC's proposal, the expansion would need 24 hectares of land currently controlled by the ministry and would cost VND19 trillion ($830 million). It would take 2-3 years and would increase the airport's capacity to 43-45 million passengers per year.

According to the expert group set up by Secretary of the Ho Chi Minh City Party Committee Nguyen Thien Nhan, expanding Tan Son Nhat to the north is more plausible. Around 157ha of land managed by MoD lies to the north of the airport, including a golf course. The location is suitable for transport connections and the construction of more terminals, confirmed the group.

The group has submitted two proposals to the prime minister. Under the first proposal, no new runways would be built, while the second proposal would construct a third runway. Both proposals suggest expanding the airport to the north.

Under Ho Chi Minh City’s proposal, Vietnam should build a third terminal with the capacity of 10 million passengers from 2018- 2020, and a fourth terminal with the capacity of 20 million passengers from 2020-2022, raising the airport’s combined capacity to 55 million passengers. It should then construct a third runway and expand the fourth terminal in 2022-2025, increasing the airport’s capacity to 70 million passengers.

The Ministry of Transport will collect opinions from consulting groups and report to Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung before submitting the plan to the government’s standing committee for the final decision later this month.

Covering 800 hectares, Tan Son Nhat currently has two terminals that serve 32 million passengers annually, well above its designed capacity of 25 million. It only has two runways that are sometimes closed due to floods or lightning strikes. The airport has space for 57 aircrafts at a time, but sometimes it has to handle more than 70.

Earlier, in July 2017, Aeroports de Paris (ADP), parent company of ADPi, acquired 20 per cent total shares of Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV), and became strategic partner of this corporation.

south or north expanding tan son nhat international airport
Luong Hoai Nam

Aviation expert Luong Hoai Nam, former CEO of Jetstar Pacific Airlines and Air Mekong, shared with VIR's Anh Minh his forecast on passenger growth at Tan Son Nhat International Airport.

ADPi forecasts a passenger growth of 4.5 per cent per year at Tan Son Nhat International Airport. Is this not rather low, in your opinion?

I do not agree with ADPI’s forecast. By 2025, before Long Thanh International Airport starts operation, the demand at Tan Son Nhat will surely exceed 50 million passengers. I think market demand will be at 65 million passengers per year.

ADPi recommended building a new terminal at the southern end of the airport. Do you think ADPi’s proposal is similar to the one raised by Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam in July 2017. If so, did we not just waste two years to start a strategically important project?

ADPi’s plan is similar to the proposal raised by the Ministry of Transport (MoT) at the end of 2016 (with the agreement of the Ministry of Defense (MoD) in that they do not plan for a third runway, but otherwise they are very different.

MoT proposed to expand the airport to the south and build T4 terminal with the capacity of 10 million passengers per year on 12-13 hectares of land held for national defense purposes. The ministry also suggested building T3 terminal (10 million passengers) on 10ha of land held for national defense purposes. Thereby, in addition to the 21ha, the solution needed an additional 12-13ha to be handed over by MoD to MoT.

Meanwhile, ADPi’s solution would require to use almost all of MoD’s land. Despite of using so much land, the French company’s solution would only increase the airport’s capacity by 20 million passengers per year, which is equivalent to MoT’s proposal.

There are criticisms that building an airport for 20 million passengers per year on 200,000sq.m is a waste. What land area do you think would suit this new terminal?

ADPi’s proposal costs too much money and land. The T1 domestic terminal, which is based on an area of 50,000sq.m and has an estimated capacity of 15 million passengers per year, serves 20 million passengers per year in reality. The T3 terminal, which has an estimated capacity of 9.8 million passengers per year, has an area of 56,000sq.m.

Talking about proportions, we should only use 120,00sq.m for 20 million passengers per year. There are differences between the proposal of the expert group of Ho Chi Minh City and ADPi on the expansion of Tan Son Nhat. ADPi forecasts 50 million passengers per year by 2025 when Long Thanh International Airport is put into operation. Meanwhile, the expert group forecasts the demand at 70 million passengers per year. Which side do you agree with?

With all respect to ADPi and the expert group, I myself prefer the solution raised by ADCC in 2016. It is the most effective and economical solution in my opinion. Additionally, I propose to rise the number of plane parking slots.

Regarding the plane maintenance area and cargo terminals in the north, they should be built on the vacant land to the north from the old runway. This way, no land would be needed from MoD for the new runway. Regarding transport connection, I suggest building a 30-metre wide road with six lanes, instead of the 22-metre four-lane road as proposed by the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Transport

On the other hand, I absolutely agree with proposal of the expert group on building the T3 terminal.

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