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Rising fuel prices keep fishermen at bay

By Viet Quoc, Pham Linh   March 4, 2022 | 05:00 pm PT
Fuel has become such a huge expense that fishermen in central Vietnam are having trouble making a living.

These days, the fishing harbor along Ca Ty River in coastal Phan Thiet Town of Binh Thuan Province is not as bustling as it should be this time of year.

Normally, the period after Lunar New Year is the busiest season for fishermen with the rainy and stormy season months away.

Fishing boats dock along Ca Ty River in Binh Thuan Province, March 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Quoc

Fishing boats dock along Ca Ty River in Binh Thuan Province, March 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Quoc

Hoang Van Thanh, who owns a fishing boat and works as a fisherman, said fuel prices are now his biggest worry. Thanh is preparing for a new trip but said he might have to stay home rather than setting sail should oil prices keep climbing.

He normally operates in the waters off BinhThuan’s Phu Quy Island.

Last year, he spent around VND90 million ($4,000) on oil for a trip of around 10 days, but for his upcoming trip, Thanh has already had to pay almost VND120 million.

Vietnam gasoline prices set a new record on March 1 after authorities adjusted them upward for the sixth time in less than three months.

The price of popular gasoline RON 95 and biofuel E5 RON 92 both rose 2.1 percent to VND26,830 and VND26,070, respectively. ($1 = VND22,820)

The prices of other fuels, including kerosine, diesel and mazut also climbed 2.4 to 2.9 percent. The latest prices topped the previous peak reached in July 2014. Tuesday’s was the sixth hike since Dec. 10, 2021 with no downward adjustments in between.

"I feel quite discouraged as it is only a few months into the new year and oil prices have already risen several times."

If the coming trip does not yield decent output, Thanh would stay home to save costs, he said.

Tran Thanh, another fisherman and fishing boat owner, said he needs around 5,000 liters of oil to operate his boat and with the current prices, he must spend an extra VND5 million.

"I heard that gas and oil prices will keep rising. It almost left me breathless."

Home to more than 7,500 fishing boats, Binh Thuan is one of the three biggest fishing grounds in Vietnam, with the others being Kien Giang and Ba Ria – Vung Tau in southern Vietnam.

Huynh Quang Huy, head of the fisheries agency under the province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the repeated increase of oil and gas prices has caused the cost for each trip to rise by 20-30 percent on average, leaving a significant impact on fishermen.

"Meanwhile the price of seafood remains the same on the market," he added.

More than 600 kilometers (over 370 miles) away, Nguyen Loc, owner of a fishing boat on Ly Son Island off Quang Ngai Province, said fishermen have reported a bumper crop so far this year but due to the rising input cost, boat owners are still facing financial hardship.

Vo Thanh Huy in Quang Ngai’s Duc Pho Town has just bought 20,000 liters of oil to prepare for an offshore fishing trip near Bach Long Vi Island off northern Hai Phong City.

He had prepared for the trip before the Lunar New Year holiday, which ended on Feb. 6. As he calculated back then, oil would cost him around VND350 million.

Now, he must spend an extra VND50 million.

Fishermen in Quang Ngai Province prepare for a new trip on February 28, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Linh

Fishermen in Quang Ngai Province prepare for a new trip on February 28, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Linh

Duc Pho Town has 1,700 fishing boats and around 11,000 fishermen and is one of the biggest fleets in Quang Ngai.

Vo Minh Vuong, vice chairman of Duc Pho Town, said the government only gives financial support on fuel to those owning large boats with a length of more than 15 meters.

Pham Thi Huong, chairwoman of Ly Son Island District, said the Covid-19 pandemic has already caused lots of difficulties for fishermen, and now with the sharp increase in fuel prices, authorities should have solutions to support them.

 
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