Thursday, March 1, 2012

Why more Vietnamese ships are captured?

However, by the end of December 2011, solutions were not available, while the number of captured ships soared to 126.

Problems with the shipbuilding industry?

A ship of the Vietnam Shipping Lines Group (Vinalines) (photo for illustration only).

According to the Vietnam Vehicle Registration Agency, some Vietnamese ships were built in developed countries but they were old and were not maintained well, resulted in serious technical errors and they were seized. Some of them included Golden Light, Lucky Viship, Xitona, Tan Binh 05, Sunny Viship and Blue Viship that were built in the UK and Japan in the 80s.

However, some ships which were built by Vietnamese shipyards in 2005-2010 were also captured, such as Vinalines Unity, Sail 36, Dong An 08 – ALCI, Quang Dinh 36, Viet Thaun 68, Truong Phat 01 – ALCI, An Trung 168 and Century Star. It is said that ships built in Vietnam had problems.

In the list of newly built ships, which were captured owing to PSC errors (errors detected by Port State Control), there was Hai Tien 18. This vessel was built at a shipyard in Hai Phong in 2009. It was designed to work with FO (fuel oils). However, according to the ship manager, after running for 500 first nautical miles with DO (diesel oil), the ship could not use FO. Consequently, the ship owners carried a tank of FO for its international journeys but they had to buy DO at 30 percent higher price. In addition, some parts of the ship broke down after a short period of time.

Human reason?

There are many reasons for the capture of Vietnamese ships but the major one is associated with human factor, including sailors, ship owners, port authorities, etc.

Because of financial shortage, many ship owners cannot invest properly in equipment. Some ship owners are not experts at managing and using vessels.

PSC checks at Vietnamese ports are formalism. Most of captured ships departed from Vietnamese ports, where they had been checked. It shows that the PSC system at Vietnamese ports is problematic.

Last year, some Vietnamese ships were captured for stupid mistakes. For example, the captain and officers of Kien Hung ship, which belongs to the Gia Long Shipping and Trading Co., Ltd., did not know clearly about the fire alarm procedures and their ship was seized at the Tungjung Priok Port of Indonesia.

The captain of Viet My Ship of An Pha Oil and Gas JS Company did not know who was the company’s representative and the mission of the representative. Phuong Nam 1 ship of Phuong Nam Tourism and Shipping Co., Ltd was captured at Sendai Shiogama port in Japan, because sailors did not know how to release lifebuoys.

Some Vietnamese ships had errors that could result in accidents: the anti-fire system was inadequate or did not work, lifebuoys could not be released, lifebuoys had technical errors, etc.

Vinalines Queen, which sank on December 25, was also reported to commit mistakes at China’s Ningde Port on August 19, 2011. The ship’s officers did not know clearly about the operation of the fixed firefighting system. It had only one accident control manual. Lifebuoys were not checked on weekly basis, etc.

Great losses from capture

Ships which are seized very often will incur losses because the ship owners have to pay a lot of money for each day of capture. Moreover, they have to pay fees for Vietnamese registration officials and port officials to get on their ships, etc.

When the ships return to Vietnam, PSC at Vietnamese ports will check them again and force the ship owners to fix the errors.

The capture of ships not only causes financial losses, but also harms the prestige of Vietnamese ship owners, Vietnamese cargo fleet and the competitiveness of Vietnam in the international shipping market.

To solve this situation, relevant agencies need to tighten registration procedures and improve training quality and English for sailors, ship managers and ship owners. They also have to regularly update information about international marine conventions, and new policies of port authorities in the world on the media and specialized magazines and websites.

According to the Vietnam Vehicle Registration Agency, some Vietnamese ships were seized several times in 2011. For instance, the Blue Viship and Tan Binh ships were captured in India and China and Thanh Ba Ship was seized in Indonesia, South Korea and India last year.