Diesel shortage beaches fishing vessels in coastal town

By Staff reporters   August 29, 2022 | 09:28 pm PT
A diesel shortage has stranded many fishing vessels in the coastal town of Phan Thiet in Binh Thuan Province and the morning fish markets are eerily quiet.

The Phan Thiet port in the central province was unusually quiet Monday morning despite it being peak fishing season. Hundreds of fishing vessels were not returning from the sea as usual. They were docked next to each other from Con Cha wharf to Tran Hung Dao Bridge. Occasionally, a few owners went out to check up on their fishing vessels.

Dang To, 47-year-old owner of a fishing boat, said many local fishermen have been unable to purchase diesel over the last two days. His fishing boat has five crew members and they focus on fishing in waters around Phu Quy Island. He needed over 4,000 liters of diesel for a 10-day journey at sea.

He checked everywhere in and outside Phan Thiet, but no gas station was selling diesel, which was declared "out of stock."

"Some places told me that they can get diesel from elsewhere and ship them here, but I'll have to pay a high price of VND28,000-30,000 ($1.19-1.28) per liter," he said, pointing out that the current diesel price was VND23,600 per liter.

Fisherman Dang To at the Phan Thiet Port, Binh Thuan Province, on August 29, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Quoc

Fisherman Dang To at the Phan Thiet Port, Binh Thuan Province, on August 29, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Quoc

He estimated that a trip would cost him VND15-16 million extra if he accepted this price.

"If I wait two more days and there is no diesel, I'll have to buy it (at higher prices)."

Tran Thi Huyen and her husband drove two motorbikes carrying plastic cans from Tien Thanh Fishing Village to Phan Thiet the same morning. After driving more than 10 km and visiting nearly dozen gas stations, they returned empty handed.

Huyen said her family's small fishing boat only catches fish close to shore, using 150 liters of fuel per trip. But even after four days of searching, they couldn't find any diesel to go fishing.

"If my boat stays on shore for longer, my family will go hungry," Huyen lamented.

Fishing boats are seen at Phan Thiet Port in Binh Thuan Province. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Quoc

Fishing boats are seen at Phan Thiet Port in Binh Thuan Province. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Quoc

The fishing boat of Nguyen Van Phan, resident of Hung Long Ward, was also anchored at the Phan Thiet Port. He and his crew were unable to set sail because they could not get any diesel.

On Monday morning, he asked a friend in Ham Thuan Nam District, more than 35 kilometers away, to buy eight 30-liter cans of diesel for VND30,000 per liter. He later hired a motorbike taxi to transport these back to Phan Thiet Port.

"My boat needs 300 liters, but I can only buy 240 liters; I still need two more cans to sail," Phan said, adding that he will continue to wait and buy enough fuel before heading out.

There are six petrol stations in the Phan Thiet fishing port area that sell diesel. Two were closed Monday morning. The other four stores were open, but when fishermen arrived with cans to purchase diesel, the staff had a stock answer: "out of stock."

Many fishermen waited in front of gas stations with cans in hand, ready to buy diesel as soon as it was restocked.

A working group from Binh Thuan Province's Market Management Sub-department arrived this morning to irregularly supervise petrol stations in the Phan Thiet port area.

Gas station employees opened the storage lid, but the majority of diesel in the warehouse had run out.

A gas station representative revealed that they no longer have diesel to sell to fishermen because distributors have not shipped it since last Sunday.

In the coming days, the market management force will continue to monitor and inspect gas stations across Phan Thiet.

"If we detect a situation of goods being hoarded in anticipation of price increases, we will handle them in accordance with regulations," an official stated.

People wait in front of a gas station to purchase diesel for their fishing vessels. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Quoc

People wait in front of a gas station in Phan Thiet to purchase diesel for their fishing vessels. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Quoc

Aside from Phan Thiet, many fishermen at other fishing ports in Binh Thuan like Phu Hai, Mui Ne, Phan Ri Cua have also reported that they have not been able to purchase diesel to power their fishing boats.

A few fishermen who are close friends of gas station employees have been able to buy a few liters, but not enough to go fishing.

Although fishermen in some other central provinces such as Phu Yen, Binh Dinh, and Quang Ngai are not facing a supply shortage, they have found the going difficult for the past few months because of high prices.

Many owners have kept their shipping vessels docked, since the more they fish, the more they lose.

Domestic gasoline prices have been adjusted 22 times since the beginning of the year, with 12 increases and 8 decreases.

Each liter of RON 95-III now costs about VND8,210 cheaper than at the end of June; E5 RON 92 and diesel oil are VND7,580 and VND6,200 cheaper, respectively.

Gasoline prices have now returned to the levels seen at the end of last year and in January this year, before the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

When the price of gasoline rose, some gas stations in the neighborhood stopped selling, citing a lack of fuel, a lack of service personnel, and losses suffered.

Some gas stations in provinces of Binh Phuoc, Lam Dong and elsewhere have been fined for trickle-selling and "stashing" goods for prices to increase.

Gas stations that stop or reduce sales without good reason or fail to notify state management agencies can be fined VND10-20 million.

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