Vietnamese mini-sub maker moves operation to Malaysia

By Trung Hieu, Thanh Nien News

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A Ho Chi Minh City inventor exported his first five miniature submarines to Malaysia and will be supplying equipment and staff to build 25 more in the neighboring country.
The first five subs were manufactured in a meandering alley in Binh Tan District and sold for US$3,500 each to a Malaysian resort for recreational coral reef journeys.
Phan Boi Tran, 60, said the next 25 subs will be assembled in Malaysia using his parts and staff.
Tran said his subs have not been granted a certificate of origin from the Vietnamese government, so his Malaysian partners will have to pay an extra 30 percent tax on the imports.
Having the subs assembled in Malaysia will not only save his partners the tax but also bring them $300,000 in support from the Malaysian government for high-tech initiatives.
Their government will also spare them from import tariffs for the parts, Tran said.
“I don’t get a single dong from that incentive. And if my copyright is infringed, there’s nothing I can do since I haven't completed copyrighting it yet.”
He has spent months trying to copyright his design to protect his invention abroad.

Phan Boi Tran, 60, with a mold he used to make mini submarines, five of which have been exported to a Malaysian resort for tourist excursions. Photo: Trung Hieu
But the procedure has proven complicated as his invention is not yet recognized by the Vietnamese government.
Tran said the recent export could only go through as the subs were ordered for tourism and not any sensitive purposes like national defense.
The descendant of the patriotic scholar and talented diplomat Phan Boi Chau (1867-1940) spent a few years working for a submarine and helicopter shell maker in France before returning to Vietnam in 2006 to open a company that specializes in designing machines, electric bicycles and toys.
He won local fame in 2010 for successfully piloting the country’s first mini-sub, Yet Kieu 1.
The subs he made for Malaysia shares his first design, made from cheap composite material and designed to accommodate one or two people.
Each sub measures two meters in length, 0.8 meters in width and 1.5 meters in height.
The sub runs at one to five nautical miles per hour and can dive up to three meters underwater for around two hours.
He said after news of his Malaysian order broke last July, one Vietnamese citizen and a Vietnamese company each ordered two mini-subs.
The company works on under-sea cables and plans to use the subs to check their work, he said.

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