A businessman launched his mini-submarine off the coast of northern Vietnam last week despite a pending permit application and a few technical difficulties.
The first Vietnamese-made submarine was launched on May 30 from a shipbuilding factory in Thai Binh Province, near the Quoc Hoa Mechanics Company which built it.
Truong Sa 1, named after Vietnam’s Spratly Islands in the East Sea, hit a cargo vessel and lost its rudder. The snag also dinged up its rear propeller and broke a gear. The collision also left a large dent in the vessel's hull.
Nguyen Quoc Hoa, director of the sub building company, repaired the damage and continued the voyage, asking two fishing boats to accompany him in case of further accidents.
The Thai Binh coast guard also sent a boat to accompany the test run and make sure things didn’t get out of control.
The damage forced him to turn back after just three hours in the water and limited him from totally submerging the submarine.
He was towed back to shore by the coast guard boat and arrived at 5:30 pm.
Hoa said the trial was 70 percent successful and allowed him to assess the sub’s seaworthiness in open water.
“I now know the affect of a two meters wave on the sub and how currents affect it and shake it; what to do if it gets stuck in shallow water, and many other challenges.
"This is a good experience for the making of many more submarines later,” he said.
Hoa estimated it would take a month to fix the damage and he plans to try it again. “I kicked it into reverse too fast and it hit the other boat.”
He said driving a submarine is pretty simple, that it only became difficult after the accident.
But he guaranteed that no danger was posed to the person inside the sub as it is designed not to capsize and is equipped with fire and explosion protection.
“In case of severe emergency, one can put on a lifebuoy and open the cap to swim up. It’s impossible to die because I had it all planned.”
The submarine was built over nearly two years and was tested successfully at the in a reservoir at a private industrial zone earlier this year.
It measures 8.8 meters long, three meters high and 2.8 meters at its widest point.
Its surfaced weight is nine tons; when submerged, it is 12 tons. It is designed to travel up to 20 nautical miles an hour and 50 meters in 15 hours while submerged.
Last March, Hoa requested a permit to test it 12 kilometers from a local port but provincial officials doubted the safety of the sub and forwarded his plea to the Ministry of Science and Technology, which in turn sent it to the Defense and Transport Ministries.
“I don’t know when I'll have a permit,” Hoa said to explain his sudden launch, which he said he and his team had spent months preparing for.
He told a Lao Dong reporter that he was not doing anything illegal because no laws prohibit the testing of a submarine.
After being informed of the test run, Vice Chairwoman Cao Thi Hai of the Thai Binh Provincial People's Committee, told Thanh Nien ordered official reports on the launch.
“We support Hoa. But if he wanted to try it or run it at sea, he should have had a permit.”
Nguyen Quoc Hoa tests his mini-sub in Thai Binh waters on May 30, witnessed by local fishing boats and coast guards: