|Fishing vessels dock at Phu Hai harbour in Thua Thien-Hue Province ahead of the monsoon season. — VNS Photo Phuoc Buu
THUA THIEN - HUE (VNS) — A shortage of locks used to anchor fishing vessels in the coastal areas of central Thua Thien-Hue Province worries fishermen and local authorities as the rainy season nears.
According to a report from the local Department of Seafood Resources Protection and Exploitation, the province has 2,000 vessels, consisting of offshore ships and small fishing boats. During storms, these vessels need concrete locks in which to nestle, away from the strong waves of the sea and lagoon.
The province has only 30 locks scattered among 26 areas along the 120-km coast, and these could only meet half of the vessels' demand, the report said.
Many of the locks are 10 years old and were either risky to use or could not meet the high demand for docking. On the other hand, newly-built locks have shortcomings, including unwittingly blocking ships attempting to dock.
For example, the Ngu My Thanh lock at the Quang Loi Commune of Quang Dien District could accommodate only 60 of the commune's more than 200 vessels. During storms, the vessels have to move to inland rivers to dock.
Meanwhile, fishermen in Thuan An, Phu Hai and Phu Dien communes are reluctant to use the Phu Hai lock, where shallow water levels leave vessels stuck in the sandy bed inside the lock. Built in September 2011 at a cost of VND42 billion (US$1.9 million), the Phu Hai lock was reportedly the best in the province, with a 500-ship capacity.
"The thick layer of sand on the bed inside the lock has made it difficult for vessels to move in and out, so I don't really want to use it," said Nguyen Trong Tuan, a local fisherman who owns a 90CV ship.
Authorities of the Phu Hai Commune confirmed that there were numerous cases of vessels getting stuck inside the lock, saying only small boats could anchor in there during the rainy season, a waste of the expensive lock.
Hoang Phuoc, Chairman of Thuan An Commune, said vessels in the commune needed the water to be at least three meters deep to enter the lock, but the water there was only half a meter deep. "This is not only a waste of the lock but also a big hindrance to the trade of fish from offshore ships," he added.
The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, which built the Phu Hai lock in 2011, is dredging the bed to deepen water levels inside the lock.
Another reason for the shortage is the delay in projects for the construction of new locks. The VND58 billion ($2.8 million) project for the construction of Cau Hai lock is supposed to be completed next month, but only 33 per cent of the work has been finished, leading to an indefinite delay.
This means that 420 ships and boats in the coastal Phu Loc District will be finding it difficult to locate safe areas for harbouring in the coming rainy season.
The province is one of the most vulnerable to heavy storms in the central region, but local authorities are still struggling to find solutions to the shortage of locks even as the rainy season approaches. — VNS