Police to investigate fatal boat accident in southern Vietnam

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The Ministry of Transport has handed over its investigation into a boat accident that killed nine people earlier this month to Ho Chi Minh City police, saying criminal violations were involved.

In an announcement on Saturday, the ministry's investigative team said it had detected "serious" violations of sea transport regulations in the capsizing of a motorboat off HCMC's Can Gio District on August 2.

The ill-fated boat belonged to a coast guard agency in the southern province of Ba Ria Vung Tau, which contracted Viet Czech Technology J.S. to repair the vessel.

But, Viet Czech rented it to Vung Tau Marina Company to transport employees of PetroVietnam Steel Pipe Joint Stock Company (PV PIPE). 

It was on its way from the Mekong Delta Province of Tien Giang to the coastal resort town of Vung Tau, when it sank some 10 kilometers off the coast of Can Gio.

The investigative team said the boat was designed for coast guard sea patrols, not transporting passengers, and when the accident happened, it was carrying 30 people plus their luggage, compared to the designed capacity of 12.

The boat, moreover, was not licensed to operate in seawaters, only rivers and closed bays, according to investigators.

Meanwhile, the helmsman, who was among the victims, did not have license to operate high-speed boats. Investigators said "unsuitable" driving, plus big waves and excessive passengers, caused the boat to capsize.

They also said while rescue agencies were informed of the accident at 9 p.m. that day, there were "signs" showing that some people had learned of it earlier but failed to report to agencies immediately, leading to tardy rescue efforts and "more serious" consequences.

Previously, survivors told the press that the boat capsized at around 7 p.m.

In a recent interview with online newspaper VnExpress, Nguyen Nhat, the deputy head of the investigation team, said Viet Czech Technology J.S. will be "the first one to be held responsible," for renting out a boat that it did not own.

Vung Tau Marina will also have to take responsibility for failing to use the boat in accordance with its design and license, according to Nhat, also director of the Vietnam Maritime Administration under the Ministry of Transport.

Investigators also found fault among PV PIPE employees who failed to intervene upon learning that the boat was carrying more passengers than allowed, the official said. 

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