Vietnam has been saying no more waste imports, but a port in southern Vietnam has paid no heed.
Customs data from a port in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau shows 1.3 million tons of scrap were imported in the first nine months this year, an eye-popping 402 percent increase in volume, year-on-year.
In terms of value, the Cai Mep Port has received $393 million worth of scrap for an year-on-year increase of 455 percent.
Nguyen Van Danh, director of a sub-department at Cai Mep Customs, attributed the exponential increase to high demand from the manufacturing sector.
“We give them clearance as long as they have legitimate documents,” media reports cited him as saying at recent conference on scrap imports.
But other experts at the conference had another reason for the increase. They said importers were looking for ports other than in Ho Chi Minh City to bring in scrap.
Logistics expert Nguyen Ly Truong An said several scrap importers have shifted from Ho Chi Minh City to Ba Ria-Vung Tau because the former has tightened down on scrap imports over the last four months.
“HCMC has even asked ships to re-export scrap and required importers to destroy their shipments, so they’ve had no choice but to import via another port,” An said.
He said that an investigation was needed to find out if importers in Cai Mep Port were allowed to take in scrap, and if their licenses were still legitimate.
Environmental expert Phan Van Hien said that the business registration office and the scrap import management authorities were not working closely together, allowing scrap importers to still find ways to get licenses.
If a business is not allowed to import scrap in the northern Hai Phong City, it can choose other ports in HCMC or Ba Ria-Vung Tau, as those ports are not given with the list of businesses banned by Hai Phong.
Therefore, customs departments need to control scrap imports by coordinating more efficiently with the business registration office, he said.
“At this time, it is better to permanently ban importers who deliberately bring trash into the country,” Hien said.
In July, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc ordered government agencies to ban scrap import into the country after China announced last year it would stop waste imports.
PM Phuc highlighted the issue again last month by ordering the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment not to issue new licenses or extend existing licenses to units entrusted to import scraps by third parties and those that import scrap merely to process and resell.
Data from the ministry shows that by the end of last month, over 15,000 scrap containers remained unclaimed at seven ports in the country.
Almost 5,000 of them have been there for over 90 days, it said.
Over 4,500 containers from 158 individuals and organizations were imported without legitimate environmental safety certificates, it added.