Vietnam ups the ante on hydrofoil safety

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  Vietnam has 224 hydrofoils with an average age of 13.5 years / PHOTO COURTESY OF DAN TRI

The Ministry of Transport has ordered hydrofoils with one engine to suspend operations from September 1 for safety checks following a spate of accidents that has sparked public concern.

The high-speed vessels would be not allowed to leave their docks, online newspaper Dan Tri said, quoting a ministry letter to transport authorities in HCMC, the neighboring province of Ba Ria Vung Tau, and the northern city of Hai Phong.

The ministry's Traffic Safety Department will carry out the inspections along with other agencies like the Vietnam Register.

According to the ministry, the public is worried and angered that hydrofoils often carry more passengers than allowed.

Last year there were six accidents involving high-speed boats, including collisions and breakdowns.

On July 26 a hydrofoil operated by the Dong Song Xanh (Greenlines) Company broke down with 100 passengers while coming from the southern resort town of Vung Tau to HCMC.

The boat drifted, hitting a marker, and its rear hold was inundated before it resumed its trip an hour later.

The ministry said authorities in both HCMC and Ba Ria Vung Tau recently asked to ban single-engine boats on the route.

They said the boats travel to the mouth of the sea off HCMC's Can Gio District and Gang Rai Bay, both of which are often hit by big storms.

Giao Thong Van Tai (Transport) newspaper quoted experts as saying that single-engine boats are only suitable for operation on rivers.

On August 2 a motorboat capsized off Can Gio due to strong winds and waves, leaving nine people dead.

It had been carrying 30 passengers from the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang to Vung Tau though it was only designed to carry 12.

Most hydrofoils operating on the HCMC-Vung Tau route were second-hand vessels bought abroad as long as in the 1990s, Vu Ngoc Thao, director of the Ba Ria Vung Tau Province Department of Transport, said.


A total of 17 hydrofoils are operated on the route by three companies, making 19 trips every day and 26 during weekends.

Tran The Ky, deputy director of the HCMC Department of Transport, said they have been involved in 34 accidents, two of them fatal, since June 2007.

In Vietnam as a whole there are 224 high-speed boats with an average age of 13.5 years distributed in 14 provinces and cities.

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