Vietnam’s government has approved a VND10 trillion (US$470.68 million) credit package to build ironclad fishing boats for local fishermen, but it is not just the price that makes the new vessels appealing to the fishers.
The composite fishing boat coded KH 91111 of Phan Quang Tan usually captures the attention of locals whenever it docks at Hon Ro port in the coastal city of Nha Trang – the capital of Khanh Hoa Province.
“Tremendous as it looks, the ship arrives at the port without making a sound,” a fisherman from nearby Binh Dinh Province complimented.
Coated in silver paint instead of the traditional blue, the ship is the size of a house. Its owner proudly boasted that his boat is “the largest of its kind in Khanh Hoa.”
Tan said he first realized that composite boats are more durable and more economically effective than traditional wooden boats in 2010, when his little brother renovated an old composite boat brought from overseas for offshore fishing.
In mid-2013, when his wooden fishing boat was due for regular maintenance, Tan decided to sell the boat and borrowed a total of VND3.5 billion ($164,737) in order to build a composite ship for ocean tuna fishing.
“I have possessed three wooden boats in my 20 years as a fisherman, and these ships required frequent repairing and maintenance,” Tan said.
“The composite is more expensive, but it is durable enough to use for life.”
The composite ship is VND1 billion ($47,068) more expensive than wooden ones, but VND3 billion ($141,203) cheaper than ironclad boats, according to the fisherman.
Tan said his composite boat has made three fishing journeys to Vietnam’s Hoang Sa fisheries, and has proven to be more effective than its wooden or ironclad counterparts.
The 70-ton ship is equipped with a 510 horsepower engine, enabling it to travel at 11 nautical miles an hour.
“As wooden and steelclad boats are much heavier, they cannot reach such a high speed with the same engine,” he said.
“So the first benefit is that it uses only 2,500 liters of oil for each journey, while wooden boats use 3,000 liters.”
Mai Thanh Phuc, a seasoned fisherman, added that the maintenance cost for composite boats is less than that of wooden ones.
Phuc had been fishing on a wooden boat for 30 years before shifting to a composite boat ten years ago, he said.
Wooden boats have to undergo one to two regular maintenance checks a year, which costs some VND30 million ($1,412) each time, and overhaul can be as much as VND100 million ($4,707).
“The maintenance cost for the composite boat is only VND10 million each,” he said.
The largest concern to fishermen when using composite boats is whether the vessels can survive rough seas and strong waves given their relatively light weight compared to wooden boats.
But Phuc asserted that his boat has endured strong winds during offshore fishing journeys and has not been affected.
Vo Khac En, an official from the agency that manages aquatic resource protection in Khanh Hoa, said there are more than 30 composite boats in the province.
“All of them have passed quality tests and have stable operations,” he said.