'Strong waves' cause deadly motorboat accident off Hoi An: police

By Dac Thanh   March 2, 2022 | 12:30 am PT
Investigators said strong waves that hit a speedboat off Vietnam's central coast last weekend had caused it to capsize, killing 17.

Colonel Vo Van Minh, deputy head of the investigation agency at Quang Nam Province’s police department, made the announcement Tuesday concerning the accident last Saturday that saw the speedboat operated by Phuong Dong Company from Cham Islands off Hoi An Town in Quang Nam to the shore engulfed by large waves around three kilometers from Cua Dai Beach.

Investigators had collected testimonies from 15 survivors - 12 passengers and three crew members - to establish the preliminary conclusion, said Minh.

Before sailing back to shore, the speedboat had been checked by border guards.

Both the boat's owner and captain provided enough qualified papers for operating, investigators said.

For now, they are collecting more evidence and working with related units to draw a final and official conclusion.

Regarding comments stating authorities had failed to apply a sea ban following rough waters, Colonel Nguyen Quang Nam, deputy commander of Quang Nam Border Guard Command, said the decision must be made based on the weather forecast of the Provincial Hydrometeorological Station.

"According to the weather forecast, the sea area off Hoi An had a northeast wind moving at a speed of 2-3 meters per second at the time, which means the wind would be light and would not affect maritime operations," he said.

Nguyen Van Son, Hoi An chairman, confirmed the town will continue organizing tours to the islands, a tourist destination about 18 kilometers from Cua Dai Port in Hoi An, via motorboats.

Town authorities will work with Cham Islands Tourism Association to handle all cases that could pose risks to the safety of motorboat tours on the route and replace all reckless captains.

"The town will look further into the cause of the accident and make a proposal on what kind of motorboats are suitable to bring tourists from Cua Dai Beach to the islands," said Son.

The motorboat that capsized when on its way from Cham Islands to Hoi An is turned over, February 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh

The motorboat that capsized when on its way from Cham Islands to Hoi An is turned over, February 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh

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.

Before 2018, there were around 140 vessels operating on the route between the islands and Hoi An, and after considering them unsafe with open tops, the ministry decided to set the rule based on existing regulations on national inland waterway routes from shore to the islands.

Following the new rule, many motorboat owners had converted their vessels to equip them with glass windows and a closed top.

However, Hoi An chairman Son said before the conversion, there had not been any deadly accidents involving tourists being transported to Cham Islands.

He said there had been accidents in which the boat sank or capsized but in all cases, passengers floated thanks to life jackets, making it easy for rescuers to save them.

Son reaffirmed what survivors and insiders have been saying in the past few days: the converted motorboat was closed, leaving almost no way out for water once it flooded it and no exits for passengers.

Le Tri Thanh, chairman of Quang Nam Province, said the number of deaths is too big and "it is necessary to learn the hard way to avoid the same mistake in future."

He proposed reviewing the impact of converting motorboats.

"When working with the Transport Ministry and Vietnam Register, Hoi An should take into consideration if the converted boat is still suited to current conditions," he said.

For now, converted motorboats are still confirmed as meeting safety standards by Vietnam Register, with Quang Nam set to keep using them.

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