Old hydrofoils carry higher accident risks, officials warn
HCM CITY — Most of the hydrofoils currently operating on the popular HCM City-Vung Tau route are too old and fail to meet safety requirements, officials of the Waterway Safety Management Department warn.
|A high-speed boat runs on the Sai Gon-Vung Tau route. Most of the hydrofoils currently operating on the route are too old and fail to meet safety requirements. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Phan
Many of the high-speed boats servicing the route were bought from Russia in the early 1990s and imported to Viet Nam in 1995 or 1996. They have been operating for more than 20 years, according to the city's Department of Transport.
The situation is particularly bad with single engine hydrofoils, of which there are five operating on the route, the officials say.
A number of hydrofoil accidents in recent months have highlighted the safety problem posed by the use of the boats that typically have a life of 10 – 15 years.
The latest incident was reported last Sunday. The engines of Greenline 06, carrying 70 passengers from Vung Tau to HCM City, stalled at the Ganh Rai Bay in Vung Tau. The hydrofoil drifting on the sea for a while before colliding with an oil carrying ship berthed nearby, seriously damaging the hydrofoil.
In March, Greenline 02 suddenly caught fire while fuelling at the Cau Da Port in Vung Tau. The fire was extinguished in five minutes and there were no casualties. The fire broke out in the boat's engine area, according the Waterways Inland Administration of Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province.
Phan Cong Bang, head of the city's Waterway Safety Management Department, said that the engines of many hydrofoils were too old and they were carrying passengers exceeding their capacity.
Although the hydrofoils were checked, maintained or repaired every year, most of them still did not meet safety standards, Bang said.
The Department of Transport said it only checked on the number of passengers on board, availability of life jackets and the driving license of captain. It said the responsibility for checking the safety of the hydrofoils' engines rested with maritime administrations. The transport departments of HCM City and Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province have asked the Ministry of Transport to consider stricter management over the operation of hydrofoils including more regular inspections, maximum period that a hydrofoil can operate and a ban on single engine hydrofoils.
There are 18 hydrofoils currently operating on the HCM City – Vung Tau route, of which 13 are two-engine ships that can carry 132 passengers each. The remaining five are single engine hydrofoils with each capable of carrying 75 passengers, according to the Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province's Department of Transport.
There are three companies that operate hydrofoils on the HCM City – Vung Tau route – Greenline, Vina Express and Petrol Express. They cater to more than 1 million passengers every year, and this number is surging at an annual rate of 20 per cent, according to the HCM City Department of Transport. — VNS