Ship owners struggle to retain seafarers
About 1,700 residents in Binh Chau Commune in the Central Province of Quang Ngai’s Binh Son District engage in marine activities. The number of fishing vessels in the commune is 483. Of these, 160 are specialized in offshore fishing. Although many commune inhabitants are fishermen, ship owners find it very difficult to retain seafarers for each long fishing trip after the Tet holiday ( the Lunar New Year).
Mr. Trinh Van Vinh, an owner of the ship QNg-95229 TS in Binh Chau commune, said that he is preparing for a fishing trip in the Hoang Sa waters in February. He said that it is difficult for him to find divers who must withstand underwater pressure. Those who are new to the profession can only dive for 2 hours while others who are long-experienced and healthy can stand for about 4 hours. He added that each ship will need divers to take turns and this is a dangerous job at sea.
He moaned that fewer divers agreed to work on fishing trips; therefore, he had to find a boatmates a few months before Tet; he even gave VND10 million-VND15 million advance to keep the boatmates.
Elsewhere in the commune, Mr. Tieu Viet Thuong, owner of the ship QNg-90575 TS, will depart a fishing trip on the 16th day in the first month of the lunar calendar with 15 crew members. The ship owners said he told boatmates about the trip months ago because many difficult laborers had shifted to other jobs on shore.
If in the past there were few boats, many fishermen had to beg the ship owner to let them work, now more people buy vessels whereas there is a shortage of seafaring workers. Subsequently, ship owners must meet laborers’ requirements; for instance, ship owners spend VND10 million-VND15 million in advance for experienced divers and VND5 million-VND7 million for fishermen who know how to do gill nets, seine nets, and draw nets. If the fishing trip fails to catch a lot of fish making good money, fishermen will not work for that owner.
Mr. Phung Ba Vuong, Vice Chairman of Binh Chau Commune People’s Committee, said that local authorities can’t throw the book at fishermen who canceled working for ship owners because their hiring agreements were made between laborers and ship owners. He disclosed that many ship owners in Binh Chau Commune have to hire laborers from neighboring provinces such as Quang Tri, Quang Binh, Phu Yen, and Khanh Hoa for long fishing trips.
Roughly 600 workers engage in fishing jobs with 111 ships in Binh Thanh Commune in Binh Son District where the Dung Quat Economic Zone with many companies and factories is located.
Mr. Le Tan Khanh, Vice Chairman of Binh Thanh Commune People’s Committee said that every year, about 10-15 fishermen stopped working at sea to apply for jobs at enterprises in the Dung Quat Economic Zone. They can work near their houses and develop the family economy at the same time to earn a more stable income. In addition to the number of fishermen quitting jobs, most young residents now go to work in companies and few of them are interested in being fishermen.
Mr. Nguyen Van Muoi, Director of Quang Ngai Provincial Fisheries Sub-Department, assessed that the province has more than 4,500 fishing boats and 38,000 people engaged in the marine industry. However, there has been a severe shortage of new young labor force in the industry, especially children of ship owners who just study to work in other occupations. Plus, low income from fishing jobs leads to many ship owners unable to retain workers, and many marine workers quit their jobs to work in industrial zones.