Saturday, December 15, 2007

Vietnam's oil prices sink fishing industry

Oil prices sink fishing industry
15:26' 10/12/2007 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – Thousands of fishermen in Ba Ria – Vung Tau province, which boasts the most developed fishing industry in Vietnam, are heavily burdened by debt incurred after the latest oil price increase.

At the end of November, Vung Tau City’s Mr. Bi’s fishing boat returned after two months at sea with a VND100mil deficit. Several powerful storms hampered fishing abilities but prices remained the same.

Mr Bi has decided to dock his boat until the situation improves. His four other boats, which are still at sea, will also stay upon return. “The longer I have boats in the water, the greater my losses are,” said Mr Bi, adding that even overly good fish sales cannot offset high fuel costs.

Tran Van Quan has also docked his two boats and cancelled his mid December fishing plans. According to Mr Quan, he would spend VND350mil ($21,870) on fuel for his vessels’ each voyage back when the price was VND8,700/litre; this would net him VND40mil ($2,500). Now that the oil price is VND1,500/litre he would have to spend an additional VND60mil ($3,750) on fuel, netting him a loss of $1,250.

Ba Ria – Vung Tau ship owners say they are been caught in a vicious circle. If their boats continue going to sea, they will certainly face losses. However, if their boats stay idle, they will break down.

According to Pham Tinh, Head of the Seafood Committee of Phuoc Tinh Commune and also a boat owner, after the Government announced the oil price increase in November, 100 fishing boats have been left ashore. Many households in Phuoc Tinh Commune fear that they cannot earn a living fishing anymore. Some shipowners have decided to sell their boats to pay their debts.

Mr Tinh said fuel expenses are the most substantial voyage expense. The 17% increase in oil price means a 17% increase in fishing expenses. Meanwhile, the prices of fish have only seen slight increases. Dried cuttle fish, for example, is still VND125-130,000/kg, while other kinds saw a slight rise from VND5,000 to VND5,200/kg.

The disabled fishing industry is not only making boat owners miserable, but is also adversely affecting fishermen. Nguyen Hau, who has been a fisheman for many years, said he could earn VND2.5mil a month before, though the job is very risky.

Mr Minh fears that he cannot find work if ship owners decide to leave boats ashore. “Fishing allows me to earn a little money to feed my wife and children. If I stay jobless, my children will die of hunger,” he said.