The coast of Viet Nam stretches approximately 3,260 kilometers across 13 degrees of latitude. Compared with Southeast Asian countries, Viet Nam has the largest ratio of coastline to land area and is ranked 27lh by coastline of the 157 countries bordering the sea. The average ratio of coastline to land area of the world is 1 kilometer per 600 km2; but this ratio in Viet Nam is 1 kilometer of coastline per 100 km2 of land. There are about 4,000 large and small islands in the Viet Nam seas, which include the two archipelagos of Hoang Sa and Truong Sa. Over 3000 islands near the shore are mainly located in the Tonkin (Bac Bo) Gulf. The total area of the islands of Viet Nam is about 1700 km2, the three largest of which (with an area of over 100 km2) are Phu Quoc, Cai Bau and Cat Ba islands.
In accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982, Viet Nam now has not only the continental part in shape of the letter S, but also has a large sea area of over 1,000,000 km2. The sea area is threefold larger than the land area. The sea and islands are part of the Motherland’s sovereignty. The sea and islands have made up, along with the land, the habitat of people for many generations.
The location and topography of the sea of Viet Nam greatly impact its natural geographical features, which in turn make it possible to determine the methods of exploitation of natural resources. The most prominent trait of the sea of Viet Nam is that it is the meeting place of lots of geological structural systems and cultures of the world. The sea of Viet Nam now has the opportunity of peaceful development for the whole Southeast Asian region. However, there exist debates on sovereignty over the sea and islands that can cause unpredictable turmoil. Thus, the sea of Viet Nam poses all the difficulties, challenges and favorable conditions for socio¬economic development.
The sea of Viet Nam has rich potential natural resources. Oil, gas and other natural resources can provide the state sufficient energy and more self-governance in economic development. The sea of Viet Nam is located between the continental part and island part of Southeast Asia that, along with diverse natural resources, is also a market of great purchasing power. It has also been a region of dynamic economic development for decades. On the continental shelf of Viet Nam there are lots of basins of sediment deposits. The exploitation of mineral resources on the continental shelf of Viet Nam is promising. The total oil reserves in the sea of Viet Nam are estimated at 10 billion tons (including gas converted into oil). Development of the oil industry will promote some other industries such as oil chemistry, transport, domestic and regional trade.
Besides oil, the sea of Viet Nam has also lots of sediment mineral resources and crystal sand. Crystal sand has reserves of industrial scale, to be used as construction material. The potential of the gas, electricity, nitrogen and energy of the sea is also very great (for examples the energy of the wind, sunlight, tides and waves and hydrothermal energy).
The openness of the sea of Viet Nam is great. From the seaports of Viet Nam vessels may arrive from the Indian Ocean, the Near East, Europe and Africa through the Malacca Strait; from the Pacific Ocean and the ports of Japan, Russia, North and South America through the Bass Strait; and from Australia and New Zealand through the straits between the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore. For Viet Nam, the openness of the sea is a very favorable condition for developing sea transport and increasing economic transactions and cultural exchanges with other countries of the region and the world.
There are over 90 small and large seaports and river ports in Viet Nam. The large ports are located mainly between the tidal deltas and accretion deltas, so vessels come and depart along the channels. However, movement of the vessels depends on the tidal levels. Along the coast of Central Viet Nam are many deepwater harbors very convenient for building seaports, among which are ports for container transport of international standards. Harbors are also very convenient for building large-scale shipyards and ship teams strong enough to travel to faraway oceans. The network of seaports, coastal land roads and railways going to remote areas inland and to the trans-Asian routes will allow Viet Nam to transport goods to China, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, actively accelerating economic growth in the free trade zone of China and ASEAN.
On the average there is one estuary for every 20 kilometers of the coast. Almost all rivers flow in the northwest-southeast direction into the sea. The Red River system, Ma River system, Ca River system, Dong Nai-Vam Co River system, Cuu Long River system, and the river systems of Quang Ninh all have lots of estuaries open to the sea. These estuaries are very comfortable for transportation from the mainland to the sea and backwards. Great masses of plankton in the estuaries are abundant raw materials for developing the industry of sea products.
The sea of Viet Nam is mainly a regional tropical sea with particular tidal and meteorological characteristics. The sea of Viet Nam has over 2,000 fish species, 100 of which have commercial value, for instance sardillela, mackerel, horse mackerel, snapper and rastrelliger kanagurta fish; over 1,600 crustacean species (of which are over 70 shrimp species), over 2,500 mollusk species; and over 600 sea plant species etc.

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