Enjoy the Vietnamese kitchen: Hanoi Delights and Discover old temples: Hue Impressions

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How the dream turned into a nightmare
on Halong Bay

Picture marhas Not all the junks on Halong Bay are safe enough

See on youtube, how the sunken "Dream Voyage" is recovered.

A sad story gets sadder and sadder: 12 tourists died, when their junk "Dream Voyage" sank near Titov island, when they were sleeping on February 17 2011. "It's the deadliest Vietnamese tourism accident until now, and is a sad lesson," Nguyen Quy Phuong, a deputy director of the Vietnam National Tourism Administration, told Agence France Press. Visitors from the United States, Sweden, Russia, Britain, Japan, France and Switzerland have lost their lives. Nine tourists and all six crew members have survived.

The company changed its name - after a deadly accident

When this happened, the sea was not stormy and the boat ankered near an island, as all the junks on Halong Bay do, when passengers sleep in their cabins. It is not known until now, what caused the tragedy. But: The company, that operated the ship and some others, has a history. And this history seems to be not good: The Truong Hai Company has changed its name four month ago, as Thanh Nien News reports. It was previously named Bien Mo Company, which owned a boat, that sank in Ha Long Bay in September 2009, killing two British tourists, a French man and two Vietnamese. Their boat overturned during strong winds in wild seas.

The last accident happened after irregularities

Also the last deadly accident has a history in the internet. An investigation by Hertfortshire Police in England turned out, that the accident happened between 6.30 and 7.00 pm, but the boat named "Halong Party Cruiser" was only permitted to sail between 12pm and 4pm, while there was 50 tonnes of cement on board, acting as ballast. The cruiser¨had also been modified without permission, measuring a length of 32.6m when it was designed to be 25.87m. All this was reported by Watford Obersever. Sandren, a surviver of this tragedy, writes on tripadvisor.com: "There were no lifejackets, no first aid kids and no emergency equipment (...) There were lifejackets on a smaller boat that was attached to our big boat, but this was pulled under along with the main ship, so the lifejackets did no good."

According to banmoi.com this ship was a new vessel, that had "just done its only trial run to test the boat’s equipment and seaworthiness, and the crew’s ability to serve and please foreign tourists". Thanh Ninh Weekly quoted Vu Hong Thanh of the Quang Ninh Province People’s Committee: "This is a clear breach of safety regulations. We will investigate the incident and initiate criminal proceedings if there is enough evidence to warrant it.” The savmped boat itself was not that damaged as there was no collision. “After being salvaged, the boat is still in reasonable condition and its hull is undamaged,” Quang Ninh shipping registrar Phung Ngoc Viet was cited.

The reports of earlier guests on board sound not good

And there are reports of travellers, who have been to ships of "Bien Mo", that sound everything else than good: HalongHell wrote on tripadvisor.com in 2006: "Don't expect anything in terms of safety. There was no safety demo or information*. And about the ship "Dream Voyage" whizzyjayne wrote on tripadvisor.com in 2009: "The boat itself must of been the worst in the whole port". WicNYC published his warning in 2009: "The boat was in extremely bad condition, the decks and the deck chairs were partly broken, walking on the boat was dangerous caused by the holes in broken wood floor panelling, rusty nails and loose fencing. Life boats or other safety measures were completely unsufficient." A bad experience with "Halong Party Cruiser" is also reported by Josh and Clare's Travel Blog in Ocotober 2010. And then lib on Thorntree in 2006 wrote about a Bien Mo ship: "Our boat "Bien Mo" was in bad condition, all the deck chairs were broken, all of us had problems with our cabins like doors not locking, toilets overflowing and the hot water service in my cabin caught on fire then exploded leaving us without hot water for the remainder of the trip."

What do the authorities now?

The local port authority said Friday that all overnight tour operations on the bay had temporarily been suspended. Day cruises were not affected.

"We are going to examine the safety of all the tourist boats in Quang Ninh and Halong Bay after this accident," Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Thanh Hung of Quang Ninh province, which includes the bay, told the Agence France Presse.

Let's hope that this will really happen and improbe the security on the boats on Halong Bay.

Update from February 20 2010:

Truong Hai Company, based in Ha Long Town, has been suspended until related agencies reach conclusions about the cause of the accident, said Dang Huy Hau, deputy chairman of the provincial People’s Committee. “The provincial authorities’ viewpoint is to strictly and objectively punish people who let the accident happen without exception,” Hau said. This was reported by Thanh Nien News

Update from February 24 2011

The Travel Agency "Nu Hoang" in Hanoi, that organised the deadly excursion with the "Dream Voyage" was unlicensed according to AFP. The company "did not have a licence authorising it to conduct international tourism," said Vu Xuan Thanh, chief inspector at the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism. The guide who died in the sinking had neither a work contract nor a ministry-issued guide's identity card, Thanh told AFP.

Read more:
How to choose the right junk for Halong Bay

Recommend this blog on Facebook and Twitter:

Tweet This

1 comment:

  1. The owners of "Biển Mơ" or "Trường Hải" company seem to have a huge sympathy from the authorities. They kill 5 peoples when "Halong Party Cruise", their new ship (plate number QN-5298, their new boat, built for $ 600,000 sank during its second trip "because heavy rain" at 18h30' 2009/09/24 (during the dinner). In fact the boat was unstable due to a stupid design and inappropriate 50 tones concrete ballast. But authorities recorded the incident as “natural disaster”. "These authorities seem to be manufacturing a storm when it was only a squall." The boat was so new that it had yet no licenses and the technical certificate had been granted by “symphay”.
    "Biển Mơ" still operate 6 boats as the "Trường Hải 06" or "Dream Voyage", registered QN-5198 witch travelers describe as floating wreckage with a dangerous design operated by a 22 year old captain. Even the boat had all the technical papers and licenses, it sank on 2/17/2011 because a leak in the engine cooling system, killing 12. Other Vietnamese boats have bulkheads between the engine compartment and other compartments (vách chắn thủy giữa buồng máy và các khoang tàu).