New tourist boats to replace banned Vietnam hydrofoils
A fleet of new high-speed tourist boats will replace Vung Tau’s notorious hydrofoil service, which was banned early this year following a fire at sea.
Tran Song Hai, director of Greenlines DP, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper Friday that the company would begin running five boats between Ho Chi Minh City and the nearby beach town in August; an additional boat will go into operation each month until the fleet reaches 10.
He said the fleet would include four boats with 150 seats each, three boats with 80 seats each and three boats with 60 seats each.
The fleet of tourist boats was locally built with imported material at a total cost of more than US$1 million.
Hai said each boat has two engines, reducing the risks of engine breakdowns, and two hulls, making it smooth while running.
“In case of nice weather, it will take around one hour and 10 minutes for the boat to take passengers from HCMC to Vung Tau,” he said.
On Friday, a Greenlines DP tourist boat successfully completed a trial run on the Saigon River with 20 passengers on board.
Most passengers told Tuoi Tre the boat was running rather smoothly and did not make noise or jolt in during sudden stops.
In late January, the HCMC government suspended hydrofoil operations, a day after a boat caught fire on its way to Vung Tau.
Ninety-two passengers, including 37 foreigners, jumped into the waters around the boat to escape the flames. All survived without injury thanks to the captain who piloted the vessel into shallow waters before it burned to cinders.
The accident was the last in a long string of breakdowns and mishaps that had occurred along the hydrofoil route.
Soon after it began operating, in 1993, the hydrofoil become a quick, popular alternative to bus travel.
Before the suspension order, the ten operational boats (operated by three companies) made 19-26 trips every day, carrying nearly 800,000 passengers per year.
The three operators had reported a lull in business following the opening of the HCMC–Long Thanh–Dau Giay expressway on January 2.
The new road halved the three hour drive between HCMC and Vung Tau.
As a result, the bus takes nearly as much time as the hydrofoil, but costs half the price. Prior to the shutdown, a one-way hydrofoil ticket sold for VND200,000 (US$9.40).