Vietnam bans use of old boats for tourism, following accidents

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A hydrofoil bound from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau caught fire on January 20. Photo: Cong Nguyen A hydrofoil bound from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau caught fire on January 20. Photo: Cong Nguyen

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Vietnam has finally cracked down on its famously precarious tourism boat industry. 
A new decree on waterway traffic safety that goes into effect next year will require all high-speed passenger vessels operating on inland waterways to be no more than 20 years old.
The law will also mandate that tourism boats which contain restaurants or overnight accommodations be no older than 35 years.
For all other passenger boats, the operational limit is 30 years for metal, fiber and concrete boats and 25 years for wooden boats.
The Prime Minister will decide the threshold for specific inland waterway boats in special cases based on proposals from the transport minister, according to the decree introduced on the government website recently.
The decree also seeks to restrict the importation of used boats. Accordingly, passenger boats that have been in use for over 10 years may not be imported into Vietnam. The time limit for other used vessels is 15 years.
The law will also make it illegal to import wooden boats for use in overnight accommodation and restaurant service.
The decree also stipulates requirements for waterway concessions, including a mandatory insurance requirement for the vessel's owner, passengers and third parties.
The law will also require that every member of a tourism boat crew be trained in relevant tourism laws.
The law's soft deadline will give those already operating boating concessions two extra years to come into compliance with the law, which goes into effect on January 1, 2015.
The decree represents the latest government response to a spate of waterway accidents.
On August 1, 2013, a motorboat capsized in rough waters off the Ho Chi Minh City coast, killing nine onboard; 21 were rescued.
The vessel capsized at around 9 p.m. while carrying 30 employees of the PetroVietnam Steel Pipe Joint Stock Company from the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang to the beach town of Vung Tau for the weekend. 
On August 28, a boat carrying 12 foreigners capsized in Ha Long Bay due to strong winds and heavy rain triggered by a tropical depression. All were safely rescued by nearby boats.
On January 20, 2014, a hydrofoil bound from HCMC to Vung Tau caught fire; all 85 people onboard managed to jump off after the captain piloted the vessel to shallow waters into shallow waters. The boat was burned to cinders.

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