July, 31 2012 10:06:00

Waterways out of control


Waterways Traffic Police in southern Vinh Long Province check safety in the Co Chien River in Long Ho District's Thanh Duc Commune. Authorities have called for a crackdown on waterways traffic violations. —VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Vu
HA NOI — Vietnamese authorities are calling for an intensified crackdown on waterway traffic violations even though the number of accidents is reported to be on the decline.

According to Waterway Traffic Police, about 70 people were killed when 60 boats sank in the first six months of this year.

However, lax regulations have led to an increase in makeshift wharves and unregistered boats, especially in mountainous areas.

Do Trung Hoc, chief of Viet Nam's Waterway Department, said local authorities in many areas had not done their jobs well enough and that many boats had not been registered.

According to Hoc, in many areas registration officials cannot even get hold of boat owners without assistance from local authorities.

Statistics from the Department of Domestic Waterways show that the country has an intricate network of rivers, canals and lakes that provide more than 220,000km of navigable waterways, but so far only 6,600km are under national management. Another 10,000km are looked after by local authorities.

Experts also have found that at the local level, only registered boats and licensed ports and wharves are managed. A representative from the Department of Domestic Waterways said a shortage of inspectors and registration staff made it difficult to monitor even these.

The department estimates that there are a total of 806,000 vessels of varying types throughout the nation. This is increasing at a rate of six to eight per cent a year.

Currently, only 30 per cent of the 515,000 passenger vessels are registered. And only about half of them sign up for required maintenance.

And, according to the department, about 22,000 people have licences to operate vessels and another 15,000 have actually done any type of professional training to steer them.

In many areas, water routes are often under the control of several local authorities, including waterway police and inspectors from different agencies. This leads to confusion and "passing the buck" when accidents happen.

Do Minh Quang from the Waterways Department at Ha Noi Police Department said illegal sand mining along the Hong and Duong rivers was out of control.

"Whenever they hear the sound of a police boat, all mining boats and dredges stop and disappear," Quang said. "Many of these activities happen at night time, which made it difficult for us to monitor. In many cases, the violators even jump onto the river to escape.

Meanwhile, the Domestic Waterways Department and the Viet Nam Registration Office are working on ensuring that all boats are registered and signed up for regular maintenance by 2014.

According to the Deputy Director General of the Waterway Traffic Police Department, Nguyen Anh Thang, lack of warning signs along many busy rivers was of major concerns.

In July, the Ministry of Transport began to crackdown on waterway violations and insisting that regulations be followed. — VNS

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