Calls for better efficiency in fishing industry to improve labour shortages

February 23, 2023 - 08:41
Despite being in the peak fishing season, many vessels in Hòn Rớ Port of Nha Trang City cannot set sail due to a shortage of workers.
Fishing vessels docked at Nha Trang City's Hòn Rớ Port in south-central coastal Khánh Hòa Province. — VNA/VNS Photo Phan Sáu

KHÁNH HÒA — With an increasing shortage of maritime labour, shipowners in the south-central coastal province of Khánh Hòa are looking to expand their recruitment to neighbouring localities.

Despite being in the peak fishing season, many vessels in Hòn Rớ Port of Nha Trang City cannot set sail due to a shortage of workers.

Đinh Văn Nam, a shipowner in the city, said that this situation has been building for several years.

To retain workers, shipowners began paying staff VNĐ3 to 4 million (US$126-168) each in advance, but often they would take the money and disappear, he said.

Many fishing boats in need of highly-skilled workers have found themselves in this situation. There were cases where the vessels were all prepared and stocked up to set sail, but their sailors disappeared after receiving the advance.

Meanwhile, hiring non-professional workers affects yields.

Another shipowner told Tin tức (News) newspaper that unskilled workers often suffer from seasickness, meaning the remaining crew must carry their workload.

Highly-skilled workers are especially important for catching tuna. Many of these vessels are recording decreasing productivity after each sail.

Typically, a tuna-fishing vessel needs at least six workers, but due to recruitment challenges, they now have to contend and set sail with four on board.

Meanwhile, gillnetters for skipjack tuna fishing now embark with eight or nine workers instead of the usual crew of 12.

Lê Đăng Tiến, deputy head of Hòn Rớ Port Management Board, said that the number of offshore fishing vessels decreased by 30 per cent compared to last year.

This is due to the rising petrol prices, difficulties in recruitment and shortage of workers. The number of vessels going to sea daily has also reduced to approximately 40.

According to several shipowners at Hòn Rớ Port, the labour shortage in Khánh Hòa is because many people have moved to other sectors such as construction, tourism or services.

Other reasons include the arduous working conditions at sea, the extended periods away from home, low wages and lack of social insurance.

Many shipowners also reported losses recently, leading to reduced benefits for maritime labour.

Experts say that retaining maritime workers requires solutions to enhance each trip's efficiency, improving their income and working conditions.

Director of Khánh Hòa Sub-department for Fisheries Nguyễn Trọng Chánh said: “According to the fishing industry development direction by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, as well as of the province, the number of fishing vessels will be gradually reduced to decrease exploitation, protect resources, and improve efficiency.

“This will also translate to better income and livelihood for maritime workers.

“In addition, shipowners are encouraged to apply modern technology, fishing gear and maritime equipment to reduce the number of workers needed and improve the working conditions and environment for the crews.

“Facing the current shift in labour forces, policies are needed to attract and train maritime workers to ensure a stable life and better income.”

Khánh Hòa Province has 683 vessels with a length of 15 metres or more engaged in offshore fisheries.

The industry has also created employment for over 30,000 people, of which 10,000 are working on offshore ships. — VNS