Agencies pass the buck in Vietnam's deadly boat accident

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A meeting was held in the southern province of Binh Duong Wednesday to review a tourist boat accident that killed 16 people last week, but no agency has accepted responsibility.

 

The meeting, which was chaired by Cao Kim Phung, deputy chief of Inland Waterway Department under the Ministry of Transport with the participation of central and local related agencies, didn't allow the media to attend.

 

The double-decker boat, used by its owner Din Ky Cau Ngang Resort as a floating restaurant, capsized on the Saigon River on May 20 in heavy rain and strong wind. Sixteen people died in the accident, including four children.

 

A source told Thanh Nien that at the meeting, Binh Duong's authorities said prior to the accident they had fined the boat's owner for operating the port without license and suspended the port as well.

 

Authorities at Binh Nham Commune, where the port was situated, should be partly held responsible for allowing it to resume operation without permission, they said.

 

During their investigations, police found that the port has operated for years without license, while the boat's registration certificate expired in February and the captain wasn't certified for operating the vessel.

 

Le Van Duc, the captain, Le Van Quang, manager of the boat, and Dinh Van Quan, manager of floating restaurants in the tourism area, have been arrested.

 

At the closed meeting, Binh Duong's agencies also claimed that as the tourism area is located on the bank of the Saigon River, which is managed by central agencies, those agencies in charge of managing river ways should accept responsibility as well.

 

Still, most of the agencies agreed that current laws on managing tourist boats are non-existent.

 

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According to the transport ministry, tourist boats rarely state that they are tourist boat during registration and claim them as "a passenger boat or other kinds of transport."

 

Floating restaurant-designed boats and tourist boats are being managed like passenger boats, meaning that registration and licensing procedures are also conducted accordingly, the ministry's representative said.

 

"Tourist boats should be managed by the tourism industry and local authorities, but in terms of transport, it is the transport industry's responsibility," Phung told the press after the meeting.

 

"The overlapped management has made it difficult to guarantee vehicles' safety and attribute responsibility [in case of accidents]," he said.

 

Meanwhile, related agencies conducted tests on the fatal boat, which was recovered one day after the accident. A hole found at its bilge was probably caused by a crash into rocks, they said.  

 

When the accident happened some 100 meters from the Saigon River's bank, the boat was carrying 28 people, including 21 passengers who were celebrating the birthday party of a three-year-old boy.

 

Initial investigations showed that it sank from strong winds and heavy rain.

 

Five passengers and seven crewmembers managed to swim to safety, while others, including five children and seven women, drowned. Four Chinese nationals were also among the victims.

 

Investigations into the case are still under way.

 

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