Vietnam tourism bans unsafe wooden boats

The government of Vietnam has banned wooden boats that were considered to be unsafe for tourists.

The new regulation will mean that building new wooden tour boats equipped with sleeping cabins will be banned from May 1, 2013. The government launched the initiative following a number of accidents that have claimed lives since 2011.

The ministry of Transport has specified that boats providing tourists with overnight accommodation, along with floating hotels and restaurants, must be built of qualified steel, aluminium, glass-fibre reinforced plastic, reinforced cement or reinforced concrete, and the use of wood has to be phased out. This will mean that owners will not be allowed to build new wooden boats, or be allowed to transform existing wooden boats.

Operators originally used wooden tourist boats for a range of purposes. During the tourism boom, these boats were transformed into floating accommodation to cater to the needs of the increasing number of tourists. Often the hastily transformed boats did not adhere to safety norms, and when accidents occurred the lives of tourists were put at risk.

The new regulations state that the number of life jackets on tourist boats must be twice the number of passengers on board, with half of them available in bedrooms and the remainder in dinning, bar and working decks. Moreover, additional life jackets for children should also be made available. Each boat must have at least eight lifebuoys, four of which must have connecting lines, placed on the boat sides. Life saving equipment must be sufficient for all of the people on board.

Similarly, floating hotels and restaurants must have life jackets available for all guests. The number of life jackets for children must be 30 percent of the number of guests. Boats and floating structures also need to have water level indicators that will give sound and light alarms when the water level at the deck reaches 300 millimetres under all circumstances. The document also says that owners need to renew their facilities periodically.

At present, most overnight tourist boats are made of wood.