The Transport Ministry has lifted a ban on hydrofoil operations between Ho Chi Minh City and Vung Tau that went into effect in January following a fire that destroyed a boat and sent its passengers fleeing into shallow water.
The decision was announced at a meeting between the Transport Ministry, the Vietnam Registry and authorities from Ho Chi Minh City and Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province on August 12.
Hydrofoils must now meet strict safety requirements, according to Nguyen Khac Thuan, director of the transport ministry’s Traffic Safety Department.
“Hydrofoils must be feature fire-resistant insulation around their engine rooms. In addition, smoke detectors must be installed in every chamber of each vessel,” he said.
On January 20, a Vina Express hydrofoil caught fire just some 15 minutes after departing the southern metro.
The boat's 85 passengers and seven Vietnamese crew members jumped off the burning boat after the captain piloted it into shallow waters along the shore.
Tran Ky Hinh, director of Vietnam Registry, asked the authorities in both locations to conduct frequent safety inspections of the hydrofoils and issue strict punishment for any violations.
“Second violations should merit a one month suspension of operations; boats found with third violations should be suspended from operating for an entire year,” he said.
Hinh instructed relevant agencies to inspect wharves, especially temporary ones meant for use in bad weather.
“The HCMC and Ba Ria Vung Tau port authorities will have to review their rescue plans,” he added.
Hydrofoils companies, which once operated a fleet of 22 boats along the route, are happy with the decision.
Bui Cong Trung, chairman of Vina Express, said the company lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue during the nearly seven month hiatus, not counting the money spent repairing and upgrading the company's fleet.
“We are rushing to meet the new requirements and resume operations,” he was quoted by Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper as saying.
Tran Quoc Hieu, director of Quang Hung Company which operates the Petro Express hydrofoils, said the company is delighted the ban has been lifted.
The company is trying to resume operations in time for the September 2 (Independence Day) vacation, he said.
Hydrofoils have been operating along the Ho Chi Minh City – Vung Tau route since 1995, offering a pleasant maritime shortcut.