A local shipbuilder has admitted to equipping engines originally intended for road-based vehicles on fishing boats delivered to fishermen in south-central Vietnam, but has put the blame on the engine supplier and the maritime registration agency.
Nam Trieu Co., run by the Ministry of Public Security, is one of two shipbuilding companies responsible for a total of 18 fishing boats supplied to fishermen in Binh Dinh Province that became unused and deteriorating after only a short time in operation.
Nam Trieu has been accused of using improper engines for ten of its 13 boats, while another shipbuilder, Dai Nguyen Duong Co., has also been denounced for using Chinese-made steel in the boats instead of South Korean materials as agreed in the contracts with the fishermen.
The shipbuilders have further been accused of offering money to buy the silence of the affected fishermen, asking them not to request independent inspections by authorities of their boats.
After the ‘bribery’ attempt was uncovered by fishermen last week, Nam Trieu and Dai Nguyen Duong have both admitted their fraudulent shipbuilding practices.
Engine supplier to blame
Colonel Dang Ngoc Oanh, director of Nam Trieu Co., said the company had contracted Ho Chi Minh City-based Hoang Gia Phat to supply ten Mitsubishi ship engines to fulfill their orders with the Binh Dinh fishermen.
Hoang Gia Phat admitted that all of the engines were 100 percent new, but “have been altered to use in fishing boats because they are originally intended for road-based vehicles,” Oanh said.
Oanh added Nam Trieu was in the dark about the re-purposing of the engines.
“We also blame the registration agency under the Directorate of Fisheries for their dishonesty,” the colonel said.
“We installed the engines on the ships only after the agency confirmed that they were standard.
“Had the register let us know that the engines had been altered, we would have never accepted them from the supplier.”
Oanh said his company is urging Hoang Gia Phat to sign a new contract to replace the standardized engines on the affected boats and help the fishermen get their boats back in the water as soon as possible.
“The dispute between Nam Trieu and Hoang Gia Phat will be resolved later,” he said.
Vu Van Tam, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the registration agency of the Directorate of Fisheries is in charge of assessing all 297 steel-clad fishing ships across Vietnam, so “they are to be held responsible in the Binh Dinh scandal.”
In the meantime, Dai Nguyen Duong has also admitted that all five of the boats it had delivered to the Binh Dinh fishermen were built using Chinese-made steel instead of the South Korean product as per their contracts.
The boats' decks and several other parts have already heavily rusted, with Phan Trong Ho, director of the Binh Dinh agriculture department saying “they look as if they had been in the ocean for ten years instead of three months, which is the reality.”
Nguyen Van Khoe, one of the boat owners, said he was shocked to see the “made in China” mark on the steel sheets used to make his vessel when touring the company’s shipyard.
“I immediately took out my camera to take a photo but the shipyard attendants threatened me with a clenched fist,” Khoe recalled.
Nguyen Xuan Nguyen, director of Dai Nguyen Duong, confirmed that the “made in China” steel had been used to build ships for Khoe and other Binh Dinh fishermen.
He explained, however, that the company did not mean to use Chinese steel initially.
“We had sourced South Korean steel from a company in Hai Phong, but they could only ship seven trucks' worth of the product before they went bankrupt,” Nguyen said.
“We had to switch to Chinese steel to fulfill the orders with the [Binh Dinh] fishermen.”
Even so, Nguyen still blamed the fishermen’s “poor management and upkeep” for the rapid rusting of the boats.
The director also admitted that some of the boats were damaged prior to delivery.
“The boats were docked at our shipyard waiting for delivery when a storm hit in April 2016,” he said.
“The lashing winds caused the ships to crash into each other, scratching their covers.”
Nguyen said the company had offered to pay the owners of the affected boats VND400 million (US$17,621) each to redo the paint job. “It was an absurd and unacceptable offer,” Khoe said.
The Binh Dinh administration has requested that both shipbuilders rebuild all the boats that have been found to be built outside of the terms of the contracts signed with the fishermen.
The decision has been backed by Tam, the deputy minister of agriculture.