Hydrofoils that are too old and traffic violations are putting commuters between Ho Chi Minh City and the southern coastal city of Vung Tau at risk.
On December 6, a hydrofoil belonging to the Greenlines company broke down three times within 20 minutes after it left HCMC for Vung Tau.
Since staff couldn't fix it, all passengers were transferred to another hydrofoil which was running nearby, making the latter carry 125 passengers in total, while its capacity was 75.
Encountering big waves on its way, the overcrowded boat was heaving badly, sending passengers into panic, and prompting many to call their families for help.
Although the company was fined for violations, the incident has raised concerns about hydrofoils' safety among officials and the public.
It wasn't the first time that hydrofoils have faced similar problems.
Tran Cao Dung, a regular user of the hydrofoil service, said he noticed that there are always more passengers onboard than provided seats.
"Because our work requires us to travel quickly, we can't help but use hydrofoils. There were many times when boats suddenly stopped while running due to their motors breaking down, worrying us a lot," he said.
Agreeing with Dung, Tran Thi Thanh Mo, another regular passenger, said she has traveled by hydrofoil for three years, and there had been numerous occasions when boats broke down.
"When I traveled by a small hydrofoil of Greenlines the other day to return to HCMC, it broke down three times," Mo added.
Experts said this was happening because the hydrofoils were too old, adding that some of 14 operating hydrofoils were made between the 1980s and 1990s.
A senior official of a hydrofoil company who wished to be unnamed admitted that the hydrofoils were bought from Russia and have operated for more than 20 years.
As it's out of businesses' financial capacity to buy new hydrofoils, most of them mainly spent money buying new motors to replace old ones, he said.
In an interview with Tuoi Tre, Vu Ngoc Thao, director of Ba Ria Vung Tau Province's Department of Transport, also said that while hydrofoils were too old with degrading equipment and services, companies have recently increased prices to VND200,000 (US$10.26) an adult and VND100,000 ($5.13) a child.
Companies are supposed to replace hydrofoils which were in use for more than 15 years and inform related agencies as well as passengers when any accident happens, Thao said.
Thao said he has proposed different agencies join hands to inspect the safety of hydrofoils, and urged them to suspend companies for repeat violations and not taking measures to stop them.