In keeping with their reputation as a nation that can overcome all obstacles, Vietnam is rebuilding its aging fishing fleet. With a government program of soft loans, designated Decree 67/ND-CP, fishermen are building boats along 28 coastal provinces from the north to the south of Vietnam.
Capt. Trinh Van Hung, grew up in a fishing family and, after completing his schooling, he fished briefly with his father. His curiosity took him into business as a trader but the call of the sea was strong. At 25, he returned to the fishing. After taking some navigational courses in a marine institute, he went right to work as a captain of his own boat. That was some years ago and the fishery has been good to him. He currently owns two 23 by 5.5-meter boats.
Huang was accepted to the government program to increase the fleet. Keeping it in the family, he approached his brother-in-law, Mr. Nguyen Van Tuyen, who owns the Tuyen Phong Shipyard in the village of Hòalôc, of Hâulôc Thanhôa Province. The yard is noted for the quality of its larger wooden boats. Capt. Hung obtained a design for a 26 by 6.2-meter wooden vessel with a 3.1-meter molded depth.
It is larger than his existing boats and will be well suited for his drift-net tuna fishery. A typical trip for tuna will take him 150 miles south to Central Vietnam where he fishes off shore with a crew of 12. The gear is a multiple segment gillnet 60-meters deep by 70-meters long per segment. Mesh size varies from 10 centimetres at the top, 15 cm. in the centre and 20 cm. in the deeper sections. Tuna range from 3 to 25 kilos. They are not bled onboard but are individually wrapped in plastic and iced in insulated totes. Trips are limited to four or five days at sea. While fishing is permitted year round, the catches are best from the First Lunar Month to the Seventh Lunar Month.
In Southeast Asia, converted, second-hand generator engines power many
fishing boats. In order to qualify for the loan program, the new boat is required to have a new, purpose-built marine engine. Cummins NTA855 engine
s, from which he has had good service, power Capt. Hung’s other two boats. For his new boat he opted for a US-made Cummins KTA19 M4. With a 700 HP rating to qualify for a government fuel subsidy, this will give the new boat ample power and will generally be operated at a lower RPM than the specified 2100. The main engine will turn a 1.9-meter propeller through a Hangzhou Advance gearbox with 6:1 reduction. A power takeoff on the main engine will provide power to a hydraulic net puller. A small 10 kW genset will meet the vessel’s electric requirements.
The tradition of wooden boat building is still strong in Vietnam although quality wood is becoming harder to obtain. For both framing and planks, the shipyard imports round logs from Lao and saws them on their own mill. This efficient machine has a large electric driven band saw that moves on tracks down the length of the log. For framing, it is adjusted to produce a 24-cm. timber. For planking, the saw is adjusted to a six-cm. thickness.
As it is the world over, launch day deserves some ceremony and the village of Hòa Lôc does it well. Performers sang in front of a large poster celebrating the shipyard and the building program. The audience of officials and fishermen were seated under spectacular coloured tents while others gathered around boats in the yard to chat and do business. Cummins’ Vietnam Engine Sales Engineer Linh Cam Nguyen and Cummins resaler Luu Xuân Anh were in attendance. Mr. Nguyen Duc Cuong, a representative of the Fishery Department under the Dept. of Agriculture and Rural Development of Thanhhoa Province, explained that the province had an allocation of 65 new boats, of which 16 had been approved and six had already been completed. With security of the fishing fleets a major concern, he added that the Vietnamese government was developing a new communications system to link all the boats.
The festive tents stood out in the grey, winter weather. Nearby the black-hulled mass of the 26-meter boat waited patiently in its launching cradle. When the singing and speeches were done, Capt. Hung gave the signal. Rockets launched showers of confetti, the flags mounted around the gunwales of the boat snapped smartly in the breeze and the carriage began its slow descent to deliver the new boat to its element. A boat launch is always a fine thing, but the launch of a big wooden boat in this day and age is truly spectacular.
The pragmatically named TH9388TS floated evenly with space to her waterline. There would be more weight added as she was fitted out alongside and she will sit perfectly on her marks when she sails for the fishing grounds in time for the Lunar New Year. Nearby the launching slip, a sister-ship was fully framed with massive timbers bolted and solid. A new Cummins engine was on the way and, in a few months, the Tuyenphong Shipyard would be celebrating another launch.
(PHOTOS: Haig-Brown photos courtesy of Cummins Marine)