“Modern” returns to… “Outdated”
In the first week of July 2020, Kinh Môn inland waterway and Phúc Sơn port authority (Hải Dương province) witnessed a number of local sailors directly present in the office to complete all the processes to manually acquire a permit for entering and leaving the ports. It is strange because these sailors can register in a much more modern way – mobile phone messages.
The representatives from both port authorities shared that, since the beginning of 2020, all the owners/sailors of ships arriving at and leaving the ports have chosen the direct process of requesting for permits, instead of making good use of electronic messages – which is deemed to be more time and effort-saving.
It is well noted that the number of sailors opting for the modern method is extremely low, and certain sailors even transferred from receiving messages to taking manual steps to have a permit.
Mr. Trịnh Kim Định, the mate of VR-SB vessel with a capacity of 2,500 tonnes, said: “The procedures via so-called messages still requires the sailors to go directly to the local port authority to complete the remaining steps, and submit required charges. If the vessel is meant to leave at the midnight, then, sending messages to the port authority is no worth because we still have to wait for the day later, going to the port authority’s office and adding requested documents to get the permit.”
Some other sailors also complained about the high complexity of the message’s contents, which make them really confused. Meanwhile, it is reported that the system of receiving messages is usually out of order, which negatively affects the process and time of handling sailors’ requests.
According to a representative from Vietnam Inland Waterways Administration, the trial program of utilizing mobile phone messages in the process of granting a permit of entering and leaving the ports is pursuant to Decision No. 2537 issued by Ministry of Transport, coming into force from August 20th, 2016 and initially applying for 04 inland waterways port authority. The owners/people in charge are required to provide their phone numbers for the relevant authority, and before entering/leaving the ports, they must send a message to the port authority.
In 2019, there were over 109,000 inland waterways ships registered to complete procedures of entering ports by messages, accounting for 35% of the total vessels traveling via the ports. The ratio for vessels leaving the ports was 12%.
The new method was expected to be a driving force behind digitalizing all the procedures of granting permits. However, in 2020, the number of registries for this method has dramatically decreased.
Mr. Đoàn Trường Sơn, in charge of the Legal & Inspection department of Vietnam Inland Waterways Administration, said that, the Administration has recently sent a proposal to Ministry of Transport to stop the trial program of registering to enter/leave inland waterways ports via electronic messages.
The reasons for such failure include:
- The low-quality software with many technical errors.
- Lack of financial subsidy to maintain and upgrade the system.
- No policy to support the mobile phone charges for the port authorities’ staff.
- No reduction in procedures. The sailors/vessel owners are still required to complete other steps manually.
It is necessary to have more drastic measures to improve the applied technologies to well manage the ports and vessels to develop Vietnam’s inland waterway system, instead of returning to the “out of date” version.