An ocean of resources for the future of Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City Marine Science-Technology and Economy Association Chairman Le Ke Lam talked to Ha Noi Moi (New Ha Noi) newspaper about the development potential of Vietnam’s extensive marine and coastal resources. The Vietnam News Agency would like to run the full text of the interview.

* What are your comments about the coastal tourism industry in Vietnam?

Many littoral countries, including Vietnam, have focused development on sea tourism industry. However, I think that tourism potential is threatened by the current attitude towards exploiting the tourist industry; new programmes need to address the problems that have come up.

Some newspapers recently reported that some areas of Nha Trang bay have become overcrowded and that it has lost its natural charm. Visitors want to experience the beauty of the ocean in a clean and safe environment.

Without addressing the inherent problems of tourism and the negative impact it has on coastal areas, visitors will not be tempted to return.

Vietnam should learn from Singapore and Japan in this regard. Singapore, a country with only few million people receives tens of millions of visitors yearly.

* What do you say about the country’ potential in regards to its coastal regions?

Vietnam has more than 3,260km of coast line and more than 3,000 islands nation-wide. The country also counts over 100 sea ports, 48 bays and 100 river mouths.

Our marine economy has three important aspects, the potential held within the natural resources, the geo-economic and the geo-strategic positions.

Exploitation of the sea for the country’s economic development plays an important role in socio-economic development, while it also offers the country security and defence.

* What do you think about the country’s strategy for marine economic development and the role of sea fishing and aquaculture in Vietnam?

Due to various circumstances, the country’s development of its marine resources has not yet reached its economic potential. Development of the marine economy should not stop at just fishing and aquaculture but should also promote processing, consumption, export and marine conservation.

The Government should restructure marine-based businesses to ensure a more effective exploitation of available resources; this is a necessary step to achieve the goal of having the marine economy making up 53-55 percent of the country’s GDP by 2020.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam has more than 30,000 fishing boats, most of them owned and operated by the fishermen themselves. There is still a lack of comprehensive and long-term government support for investment in and modernisation of the fleet.

The most important thing is that the Government should support fishermen in the application of new technology, and help them develop logistics so as to prolong their fishing trips and increase their capabilities.

Fishermen could benefit from increased productivity. So, I think that the aquaculture sector still needs an overall and a long-term strategy.

* What do you think about the marine logistics industry?

The country has more than 200 sea and river ports but marine transport logistics remain very modest due to the small number of ships and vessels with high capabilities. Hundreds of tonnes of export goods are transported mainly by foreign vessels.

The country’s marine and river logistics industry also needs restructuring and a long-term strategy. The most important point is that the industry’s human resources should be nurtured and developed, from managers to seamen.

Marine logistics ranked third among key marine economic industries, however the industry needs more support industries, such as shipbuilding, port construction and renovation, docks, container depots as well as fuel, food and related services.

However, the industry is facing many difficulties, in part due to the fall of the Vinashin and Vinalines groups.

* Have we got any research on marine science, a potential field of marine economy?

The country has the Institute of Oceanography. However, the institute’s capacity is still limited in many aspects.

An comprehensive marine scientific research programme would be very beneficial to the country’s overall development, it would serve the country’s national welfare and support people’s livelihood.

I think that the Party and Government should pay more attention to investing in marine scientific research in an effort to take full advantage of the country’s marine potential. It may be a little late now, but I think that it’s better late than never.-VNA