News reports today of a Ha Long Bay tourist boat sinking at around 5am this morning, with upto 12 people feared drowned. Reports are still very sketchy, though it seems most of the dead were foreign tourists.
The Sydney Morning Herald has a pretty good wrap with quotes describing the boat as "cheap" and "having engine problems". We were told by an agent in Hanoi that the operator of the boat was Truong Hai Ltd Boat Company.
It's difficult to give advice as virtually everyone books these tours with the boat sight unseen, so all we can suggest is that when you arrive at the port, if the boat doesn't look safe, walk away. One would also hope that the more expensive boats would be better maintained, but they may not always be the case.
Weather has been discounted as the cause of the accident.
Will post more as more details come in.
#1 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,800
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I am so sad to hear this news!
Only one Vietnamese on board drowned which means the crew survived (above deck?) and all below deck (tourists + Guide?) went down inside their cabins? why was there no crew on watch? no alarms in the bilge etc.?
There will never be a credible independent investigation and nothing good will come of this accident nor any accident in Ha Long Bay because the destination and tourism industry is so corrupt! no wonder 95% of foreign tourists NEVER come back to Vietnam!
I wrote something about Ha Long Bay boats about 2 years ago after the then newest and largest junk (40 meters length) sank even before it was registered and 5 people died! (Somtam2000 can you find it and repost it? all still relevant as far as I know!)
The problem is that nearly all junks in Ha Long Bay are built by the same few shipyards - they are built cheap, pre-2008 GFC occupancy rates of 80% junks paid for themselves in 3 years, junks must be rebuilt every 3 years or so (not being done!). The frames are not strong enough and planking too weak - they have to operate in very calm conditions and anchor at night in shelter together because they are simply not safe in any condition!
Ha Long Bay is mafia run so only a few people own the majority of the junks and they do what they want with Government support - more corruption.
Since 2008 the bottom has fallen out of VN tourism (numbers of foreign tourists may be about 50% of 2008 with less money being spent, high inflation, etc.) and now
many boats do not even have enough cash flow to pay the crew let alone basic maintenance!
Something needs to be done before the Vietnamese Government comes clean and starts to require tours to be operated to international standards (or at least to VN laws & regulations - most are NOT!) or VN will continue to decline in competitiveness and there will NOT be foreign tourists in sufficient numbers! Domestic & Asian tourism is starting to take up the slack, spending less with different values and ideas of what they want as tourists (which are sometimes at odds with wealthier foreign tourists from North America, Europe, Australia, etc.).
STAY AWAY FROM HA LONG BAY! the situation will only get worse!
#3 Pablot has been a member since 4/5/2009. Posts: 102
Thinking of the families of those who have lost their lives. How horrendous: the darkness would have made it very difficult to get our from.
Somtam is right: if you sense that something is wrong or the boat looks in bad shape, just put the loss of money down to experience and walk away.
So sad for those people who have lost their lives, and for their poor families :(
I know this particular incident is sounding like it's engine not weather based, but also would add that if you are planning to go to Ha Long bay and the weather is poor, try to cancel/re-arrange. We were out on a boat in December in wind and rain and it was very scary at night. The boat swung around lots (they are quite tall for their size so catch the wind) and the water was splashing up over the side outside our door (lower deck cabin), the launch boat was banging and crashing into us and strange loud grinding noises, at more than one point we can hear all the crew running round shouting. We actually got up and put t-shirt and shorts on and fished out the life jackets (quite hard to get from far under the bed) and put them next to the door just in case - didn't really sleep. This was only a mid-range boat but not the worst by any means. Even the 'fancy' junks did not look too much better.
#5 jojo123 has been a member since 15/11/2010. Posts: 16
Damn! I am/was considering doing Ha Long Bay in about one week. Maybe not? Now have doubts and somewhat concerned.
Very sad for the victims and their families.
I have been very disappointed with the aggressiveness of the players in the tourist industry here in South East Asia and the poor quality of their services and not sure I'll come back again.
5acre, yes it's a tragic accident. But I wouldn't let this put you off doing a trip in Halong Bay. They do 1000's of trips each year without incident. Just, take the time to do a little bit of research into the cruise company that you go out with, and if possible, have a look at the boat beforehand (although I think that is more difficult in reality).
I, for one, enjoyed my trip on Halong Bay. It was a bit cheesy in some respects, very touristy, but it was still a great experience. (I went with Columbus cruises - pricey but excellent boat, good service, food was awesome, and met some other great travellers).
I know what you mean about the aggressiveness of touts, etc. It wore me down in places, and nearly ruined my experience in Vietnam, particularly in the northern part. But I also met so many genuinely lovely people as well, people that weren't trying to make a buck out of me. (Harder to find in Vietnam admittedly - but they were there). Those are the memories that I take away.
Halong is great. I was on the water when the boat sunk. My boat was cheap. Looking back, a little scary, but hey.
Don't cancel trips there. That night there were, what, like 130 boats moored in the bay? If it's like that every night, that's a lot of boats. Not many sink.
Viet Nam is a developing country but many foreigners have not realized that Tourist Industry of Viet Nam actually still had been kept under NO CONTROL in many aspects by government or any authrities but VN continuosly had many tourists from abroad since1993 (the year VN government officially opend to foreigners from north to south).Travelling Viet Nam everytime includes some kind of RISKs(from fatal accidents to little scammings around tourists).
#10 tf_geckozy has been a member since 2/9/2008. Posts: 82