Motorboats operating away from shore must have all windows closed to avoid water flooding them, according to Vietnam Register.
Nguyen Vu Hai, deputy head of the authority, told VnExpress on Monday the motorboat that had capsized off the central coast last week met all safety standards and was properly registered.
Regarding comments blaming the accident, which killed 17, on a lack of emergency exits on the boat, Hai said high-speed boats have a slim, small and compact design for fast operation.
“When running at sea, it must be closed because if it’s not, strong waves and wind will cause water to splash into the passenger compartment, causing instability and possibly leading to shipwreck, threatening the safety of passengers.”
Therefore, such motorboats must have sealed glass to protect passengers and prevent water from entering the passenger compartment, he said.
Around 2 p.m. last Saturday, a speedboat operated by Phuong Dong Company was carrying 39 people, including three crew members, from Cham Islands off Hoi An Town in central Vietnam to the shore when it was engulfed by large waves around three kilometers from Cua Dai Beach.
The accident left 17 dead as confirmed Monday afternoon. All are tourists from Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.
The motorboat that capsized off the Hoi An Town is pulled to shore on February 26, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh
Right after the accident, Vietnam Register had reviewed all the records of the vehicle and confirmed it had been registered in accordance with the law, with the latest inspection on Jan. 19 showing it had met all safety standards.
At the time of the accident, the registration certificate was still valid.
The boat was built in 2016 as a motorboat with 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 regulation in 2018.
After the conversion, it was qualified to carry passengers back and forth to Cham Islands, a tourist destination about 18 kilometers from Cua Dai Port in Hoi An.
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.
Passengers of a capsized motorboat are given emergency aid at Cua Dai Beach in Hoi An Town, February 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh
However, after the deadly accident, both survivors and Hoi An authorities said the converted boats only have two entrances, providing little space for escape.
They said passengers had been stuck inside because they were all wearing life jackets, and when the water flooded in, floated up to inadvertently block their own means of escape.
At a meeting with leaders of the National Traffic Safety Committee and the Ministry of Transport on the morning of Feb. 27, Nguyen Van Son, Hoi An chairman, reaffirmed that converted motorboats are not safe.
“We recommend the Ministry of Transport to review the current regulation on standards for converted boats,” he said.
However, Hai of Vietnam Register said all converted boats have been inspected by the authority and that they all meet the national standard, based on the International Code of Safety for High-Speed Craft (HSC Code) by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
Regarding the latest incident, the Ministry of Transport has requested Vietnam Register to strengthen the inspection of passenger boats operating from shore to the islands.
“We will continue to study new regulations of the IMO and of other developed countries and organizations to propose amendments and supplements to national technical regulations,” said Hai.
Police are still investigating the case.
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