Around 1515 hours yesterday (December 9th, 2009), there was a serious collision between two hydrofoils, Green Lines and Petro Express, that run between Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and the oil town, Vung Tau, Vietnam, on the SaigonRiver. The Greenlines ferry with 37 passengers was on the way from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau. Traveling over 20 minutes and at a sharp turn, she hit her starboard side against the Petro Express on the reverse way. The severe collision caused chaos in both hydrofoils. Eight people got injured and they were all from the Green Lines.
It was bound to happen. I was in the United State Navy and qualified on the con. All vessels when meeting head on are always supposed to proceed in a port-to-port manner. Vietnamese vessels, including – and especially – these hydrofoils almost never paid attention to this most basic rule. How this rule extends to coastlines and bends in rivers is that if you are approaching a bend that goes to your starboard side you are to decrease speed and hug the bend which would allow any potentially unseen vessels coming in the opposite direction to still pass you port to port. The exact opposite is true if you are approaching a bend where the bend is to your port side. In such case you should decrease speed and veer starboard. And only in cases of emergency could a vessel stop in a bend but in such cases they are to emit hazard signals (both sound and light). Nonetheless the simple fact that the vessels hit on the starboard sides means than one or both of the hydrofoil navigators was very careless with the vessel and the lives of her passengers. Ships and boats moving in opposite directions should never meet starboard to starboard.
As many times as I was ever on either of these hydrofoils did they ever seem to slow down at a bend and no matter what direction the hydrofoil was approaching the bend they always hugged it closely like they were making a turn on a Formula One track. This accident was inevitable and the only wonders about it are that it had not happened much sooner and that more damage (both human and machine) was not suffered.
I would like to say that maybe now they have learned their lesson but that is not a bet I am willing to accept.