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Inefficient new Inchon passenger terminal

Posted November. 03, 2000 14:31,   


"It shall be the pivotal facility for the western coastline in the 21st century."

With such lofty goals, the construction of the seaport facility began in 1998 with the first injection of 40.7 billion won. The four-story first passenger terminal building of the Inchon International Port opened Oct. 2. However, it is fast becoming a thorn on the side, as many foresee it as being a result of shortsighted haphazard planning and unfit to meet future demand.

The new terminal:

The one-floor passenger terminal building, which had been in use was built in 1988 during the Olympic Games in order to meet the Russian Olympic team coming to Korea via ship, was a temporary facility. It was a mere skeleton of a building hardly qualifying as a passenger terminal. As such, the new terminal was built in hopes of providing a cleaner and wider facility for the passengers traveling to and from China.

However, the new terminal, in contrast to its splendid outer facilities, is hardly able to accommodate even half the passengers coming through its doors.

The greatest problem is the allocation of space for the new terminal. The waterway and the docking facility for the terminal are much too short for any ship over 20,000-ton class. While a 26,000-ton ship requires 250 meters of waterway and dock, the facility only has available 180-200 meter dock for 15,000-ton ships. The location of the terminal makes such a 250-meter dock impossible.

As such, among the seven vessels that make trips between Korea and China, only four ships weighing 15,000-ton are able to use the passenger terminal, and the other three vessels, one 16,000-ton and two 26,000-ton classes, still dock at the old facility.

Construction rushed:

"At the time of planning in 1996, the largest vessels were 15,000-ton class ships, and it was our belief that the terminal would suffice," an official at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries said.

He acknowledged that the construction might have been rushed. The ballpark estimates have been found faulty less than five years after the planning stage. Early this year, two new ships weighing 26,000 tons have been chartered to sail into the port, a trend that might result in larger vessels.

With the situation turning for the worse, the ministry renamed the old terminal the Second Passenger Terminal and allowed the larger ships to continue docking at the facility. Less than 2 kilometers apart, the port authorities need to run both facilities. As such, double the number of customs inspectors and managers need to be on duty for the two terminals, which will necessarily lead to a waste of taxpayer's money.

The four-story new terminal building boasts 5,000-pyong per floor but only accommodates 40% of the passengers, giving it a sense of being too empty.

"Although the new terminal is good, as there aren't that many people in it," an official working in the terminal said. "It seems a bit of a waste of good space."

Attorney Ha Seung-Soo of the Taxpayers' Rights Movement said, "Responsibility needs to be taken for the waste of taxpayers¡¯ money for projects that do not benefit the people or those that have been improperly carried out lacking adequate feasibility studies."

Lee Wan-Bae roryrery@donga.com