Motorboat service off Hoi An coast suspended after deadly accident

By Dac Thanh   March 15, 2022 | 03:00 am PT
Motorboat service off Hoi An coast suspended after deadly accident
Motorboats at the port at Cua Dai Beach of Hoi An Town on March 15, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh
A speedboat service from Hoi An Town to Cham Islands has been suspended two weeks after authorities deemed it mismanaged.

The decision took effect on Monday, as decided by inspectors from the Department of Transport in Quang Nam Province following a proposal from the province’s Hoi An Town, said Truong Van Son, the ministry’s chief inspector.

Authorities in Hoi An stated last Friday that the inspection and issuance of permits to enter and leave the inland wharf of Cham Islands belongs to the Inspectorate of Quang Nam’s Department of Transport.

However, during the past time, the inspectorate has not arranged a team to work at the wharf on the island, a tourist destination about 18 kilometers from Cua Dai Port in Hoi An, and the task has been temporarily assigned to Tan Hiep Commune on the island.

Now, Hoi An authorities stated it is not right to have the commune continue to do the task as employees at the management board of Cham Island Wharf are "not qualified" and usually "face many challenges."

Therefore, the town wants the provincial Transport Department to promptly arrange human resources to better manage boats operating between the town and island starting from Monday.

As a response, the department decided to temporarily suspend the service until it provides a solution.

The suspension, which was not declared in advance, has caught both tourists and businesses by surprise.

On Tuesday morning, a speedboat operator had to compensate its customers after almost 50 passengers were told they can no longer take a motorboat tour to Cham Islands. At the same time, there are tourists who have already traveled to the island and have no boats to return to shore.

Given the demand, Quang Nam's Transport Department plans to resume the service on Wednesday after discussing with Hoi An officials on safety measures.

The service made headlines last month after a speedboat operated by Phuong Dong Company from the island to the shore was engulfed by large waves around three kilometers from Cua Dai Beach.

As the boat capsized, 17 passengers were killed.

The boat used in the accident was built in 2016 as a motorboat with a roof and an open-top to operate in rivers, lakes and closed bays. Three years later it was converted to have windows to carry more than 30 passengers and operate more than 12 nautical miles from shore following a Ministry of Transport’s regulation in 2018.

With the conversion, it was qualified enough to carry passengers back and forth to Cham Islands.

After the accident, many have blamed the conversion, saying it entirely enclosed the vessel and causes a lack of emergency exits.

Quang Nam authorities, survivors, and business insiders share the same idea that with open-top motorboats, passengers, who were supposed to wear life jackets, would manage to float, making it easier for rescuers to reach them instead of being stuck inside the closed boat.

Police later stated the strong waves that hit the speedboat had caused it to capsize, leading to the tragic accident.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Vu Hai, deputy head of Vietnam Register, told VnExpress that motorboats operating away from shore must have all windows closed to avoid water flooding them.

"When running at sea, it must be closed because if it's not, strong waves and wind could cause water to splash into the passenger compartment, causing instability and possibly leading to shipwreck, threatening the safety of passengers," he said.

There are now 87 closed motorboats operating between Hoi An and Cham Islands.

They transported 440,000 passengers in 2019. Under Covid-19 impacts, the figure dropped to 164,000 in 2020, and 32,000 last year.

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