A pilot programme of building new fishing boats for fishermen in Ly Son (Quang Ngai province) has been implemented by the Viet Nam Ship Building Industry Corporation (Vinashin), laying a foundation for a plan to replace thousands of wooden fishing boats with modern steel boats with higher capacity and safety for fishermen, increasing offshore fishing capacity.
Potential remains neglected
According to statistics, there are nearly 25,000 wooden fishing boats nationwide, which all need upgrading to steel ones. A survey by Vinashin’s Institute of Ship Building Technology revealed that most traditional wooden fishing boats are made manually in villages, equipped with backward engines and perform at low capacity. During their operation at sea, paint, exhaust oil and waste released from these wooden boats seriously pollute the environment, while the ships are not safe for fishermen.
The programme of building steel fishing boats was given to Vinashin while the group was struggling with debt, and is considered as a lifebuoy for the company. Although total investment of the programme is about 120 billion VND, smaller than the group’s projects in the past, the programme is of great significance, serving the national interest and creating jobs for workers. Building cargo ships for export has brought large profits for ship builders. However, contracts have dropped significantly, leading to a lack of jobs in ship building yards.
Building steel fishing boats is assessed as a potential market, with strong demands for small and medium sized boats. However, Vinashin has long neglected this market to focus on “super giant” contracts in the past. In the current context when export markets have shrunk dramatically, the company is likely to refocus on the domestic market.
Dr. Dinh Khac Minh, Director of the Institute of Ship Building Technology said the newly built boats will not only get a steel sheath, but also be equipped with modern engines with minimum capacity of 400 CV, meeting environmental friendly standard, and are safer for fisherman working offshore. Moreover, the Institute has also designed vessels for logistical services, and seafood preservation, in order to increase productivity.
Large fleet ready to go to sea
The Prime Minister has decided to choose the island district of Ly Son as a model locality to develop a fleet of steel fishing boats and boats for logistical services. The fleet will be strong enough to effectively operate in the East Sea, and will be supported boats supplying fisheries services, and ships of the fishery control force and marine police. This activity will be a closed process, ensuring safety and convenience for fishermen.
Currently, 60 percent of the total population of Ly Son island district live on fishing, of which 3,000 people directly work at sea, generating an annual production value of 200 billion VND. In the first quarter this year, fishermen in Ly Son got 7,000 tonnes of seafood, earning nearly 50 billion VND.
The Ly Son People’s Committee has chosen the sea-based economy and tourism as the district’s key development focus. Under its plan, Ly Son island district will begin building a marine reserve by 2013.
Although the fishing yield in Ly Son has increased every year, the sector is developing in an unsustainable and incomprehensive manner. Among 420 fishing boats in the district, only 120 boats are capable of fishing offshore, staying for a long time at sea and fishing in Truong Sa, Hoang Sa Archipelagoes. Thus, the demand to modernise the district’s fleet becomes critical, playing a role of a springboard to make Ly Son an outpost island with developed economy and strong defence security.
In a recent working session with Ly Son island district’s People’s Committee, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh said, the district should assist fishermen in operating in Hoang Sa and Truong Sa waters, rescuing boats meeting accidents at sea, along with modernising the offshore fleet, using steel-sheathed boats and replacing wooden boats having low capacity.
Ninh said, fishermen working offshore face a lot of risks and accidents. Hence, the modernisation of the fleet of fishing boats is a critical issue, in order to strengthen fishing in the East Sea, helping protect national sea and island sovereignty. This programme is an important step forward in the process of modernising fishing boats for fishermen, strengthening their ability of operating at sea.
The fishing fleet model in Ly Son will be reviewed, perfected and multiplied in 28 coastal provinces and cities. The Deputy Prime Minister also asked the Ly Son district People’s Committee to research and propose methods of building and operating the new steel-sheathed boats, considering the opinions of fishermen, to achieve the best results.
However, the modernisation of fishing boats, which costs up to billions of VND, seems to be beyond fishermen’s financial ability, as they are struggling with living difficulties. Thus, it is necessary to assign a bank to provide loans to fishermen, with the guarantee of the local authorities and partial interest payment support from the Government.
Quang Ngai province has already negotiated with Vinashin in designing and building the first 22 steel-sheathed fishing boats for fishermen in Ly Son island as well as some coastal districts such as Binh Son, Tu Nghia and Duc Pho. These 22 boats have been completed in design and are being tested in Vinashin’s testing tank.
Depending on scales and types of fishing, the boats have a capacity from 400 CV to 800 CV, with some having 1,000 CV capacity (boats for logistical services). They are from 19-29 m long and can last 20 years. Steel-sheathed boats will be built in Vinashin’s small factories such as Cam Ranh, Ben Thuy and Factory No. 76.
According to Dr. Dinh Khac Minh’s calculation, the cost of each ship equipped with modern facilities will be between 4.5 to 5.5 billion VND. Supported by the Government’s policies of offering preferential loan and localities, fishermen can afford the boats and feel secure with their investments.
The first boats are scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, or early next year at the latest. The Government only plays the supporting role in the project. Fishermen are the main subject who are directly responsible for their investment, thus should use their asset in an effective and sustainable manner.
Fishing has been a tradition in Viet Nam for many years. Wooden boats has been attached to fishermen for generations, thus, fishermen’s habits cannot be changed in a short time. It is not easy to replace and modernise thousands of boats operating at sea, while economic matters still remain big obstacles.
Building new, fully equipped steel-sheathed boats with capacity of 400 CV at a cost of 4.5 billion VND will be 1 billion VND more expensive than building wooden ones. This difference is not easy for fishermen to afford without the support from the government and banks. Besides, the modern fleet should operate in teams and groups. Fishermen should be trained methodically. At the same time, the linkage between three factors including the Government, fishermen and enterprises should be strengthened, in order to ensure stable market for fishermen’s seafood harvest.
In implementing this practical programme, central agencies should closely coordinate with localities in supervising and amending the programme to ensure feasibility and economic effectiveness, while proposing Government preferential mechanisms and policies so that the policies can be promptly implemented.