HCMC ferries disdain safety regulations

People are still stunned by the deadly ferry accident on the Gianh River in the central province of Quang Binh last month killed 42 people, mostly women and children.

But thousands of people in Ho Chi Minh City continue to cross rivers by unsafe boats every day.

The passage of large ships rocks small boats like this one operating from An Loi Dong Ferry Station in HCMC’s District 2 but most passengers do not wear lifejackets (Photo: SGGP)

Around a dozen boats take Buddhists across the Long Son River in District 9 to visit the Long Phuoc Pagoda. Neither boatmen nor passengers wear life jackets though a board announces “Wear life jackets to protect yourselves.”

Hawkers said that a large number of pilgrims visit the pagoda on the 15th day of every lunar month and during Tet.

The boatmen usually carry more than the allowed number of 30 passengers plus their luggage, they said, adding that in their desire to complete the trip early, people jostle to get aboard, meaning sometimes the boats carry 40-50 people. 

Likewise, 40 boats ferrying passengers between Districts 2 and 7 are also usually overloaded and face the risk of sinking.

They are allowed to carry six but usually carry more along with motorcycles despite being prohibited from transporting cargo.

The city Department of Transport (DoT) fears the An Loi Dong ferry station in district 2 is vulnerable to mishaps because many large ships traverse this section and the boats flounder in their giant wakes.

The boats are old and handled mostly by women. Most of their owners have been operating the boats for generations that they do not get periodic checks.

The city has 41 ferry stations in Districts 2, 4, 8, 9, 12, Go Vap, Thu Duc, Nha Be, Can Gio and Binh Chanh, according to the Department of Transport.

Authorities have repeatedly urged passengers to wear lifejackets but people dislike wearing them while boat owners keep them in nylon bags for fear of being fined if they do not have them.

There were 33 ferry accidents last year in which four people were killed, 11 cases more than in 2007, according to the statistics of DoT.

Responsible officials said inspectors find it difficult to conduct frequent checks of ferry stations because they work at unusual hours.

By L. Long, L. Nguyen - Translated by Uyen Phuong

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