An overnight stay on a wooden ship in the scenic Ha Long Bay will soon become a memory, according to northern province Quang Ninh’s authorities.
The local authorities of the world heritage site have taken a series of measures to improve safety after a cruise ship, full of foreign tourists, went up in flames yesterday morning and this isn’t the first time such incident has happened.
Wooden vessels in Ha Long Bay, visited by millions of tourists each year, will be all gone in the next 15 years, said Le Quang Tung, deputy chairman of the Quang Ninh People’s Committee.
The provincial transport department has decided to gradually replace wooden cruise ships, which are highly flammable, with steel boats.
Quang Ninh has even stepped up further its effort to make the iconic Ha Long Bay safer by banning cruise ships from staying overnight on the water in both Ha Long Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay.
A specific timeline for the ban to come into effect remains unclear. However it is said to be enacted soon, Quang Ninh authorities said as quoted by the Vietnam News Agency.
After the tragic accident in February 2011, which killed 12 people on an overnight tour boat in Ha Long, local authorities immediately took a number of measures to ensure the safety and protect the reputation of the country’s top tourist attraction, including requirements for staff on board to have first aid training. The most recent measure is to slash the lifespan of tour boats, a 15-year operating license issued to wooden vessels and 25-year to metal ships.
A cruise ship caught on fire yesterday morning, forcing about 40 passengers to jump in the water and swim ashore, is the latest accident with anchored wooden boats. Four victims were reportedly lightly injured and already sent to Bai Chay General Hospital for a health check.
The vessel, which is owned by the Ha Long VIT Tourism Service Company, was moored at Tuan Chau Port alongside with other cruise boats at the time of the fire after a two-day tour in Ha Long Bay.