A lot of vessels worth trillions of dong have become scrap iron and left useless in the East Sea, turning the sea into the trillion-of-dong refuse tip.
The disappeared ships
According to Do Thai Binh, a member of the Vietnam Oceanographic Society, Vietnam once had very modern marine research vessels. These included Bien Dong vessel – the same age as Nansen and some others built by Norway for Vietnam.
“The other vessels are still working well, while Bien Dong has been put in mothball for a long time,” Binh said.
No information about Bien Dong can be found nowadays on Vietnamese websites, including the Vietnam Register’s list. Has it become the refuse, like many other things donated by other countries?
“I made a lot of exertion to look for the information about Bien Dong vessel, and I only found the information in English. Meanwhile, there was only one article about the vessel in 2003 in Vietnamese,” Binh said.
Bien Dong was built in Norway in 1976 and delivered to Vietnam in 1982. Its value was estimated at $12.5 million in 1995.
“No one knows how the vessel was exploited. After an accident, it only appeared once at the exhibition on the Vietnam-China fisheries cooperation,” Binh said. “It is unclear where it is lying.”
Bien Dong is not alone. A lot of other vessels worth trillions of dong are lying somewhere on the sea. Dr. Nguyen Duc Hung from the Australia Maritime Academy recalled the seven abandoned ships that Vinashin is trying to sell for scrap.
Most recently, competent agencies revealed that Vietnam has a whole fleet of old vessels which are so technically bad that cannot anchor.
In 2006, Vinashin requested Nam Trieu Shipbuilding Company, one of its subsidiary, to buy Bach Dang Giang ship from Vien Duong shipping firm at VND155 billion. However, the ship could not work because of the serious damage.
In 2006 and 2007, Vien Duong, a subsidiary of Vinashin, bought 10 ships worth VND3.13 trillion, or $200 million. All of the ships were more than 15 years old.
Since the ships were too old, they could not be registered in Vietnam. The ships are running under foreign flags.
In 2005-2010, the Vietnam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines) bought 73 ships, mostly foreign used ones, with the total capacity of 2,005 DWT. The noteworthy thing of the VND22 trillion deal was that 17/33 ships were too old to be registered in Vietnam. One of them reportedly was 33 years old. Especially, Lively Falcon, 30 years old, was also bought. It is now flying a foreign flag.
The industrial refuse tip in Vietnam
Trinh The Cuong, a senior official of the Vietnam Maritime Bureau (Vinamarine), said demolishing ships is the only way to deal with the ships that are too old.
Also according to Cuong, Vinamarine is going to propose the government to join the 1992 Hong Kong international convention on recycling ships in a safe and environment friendly way, and propose to amend the Environment Protection Law.
“It is necessary to lay down a reasonable legal framework for enterprises to operate in accordance with the laws. This would help prevent enterprises from dodging the laws, buying old ships and turning Vietnam into an industrial refuse tip of the world,” Cuong said.