Authorities in the northern province of Quang Ninh plan to replace wooden ships with steel ones over the next five years to ensure safe journeys for tourists in Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO-recognised natural heritage site.
Vu Van Khanh, Director of the provincial Transport Department, revealed the plan during a session on March 15.
All steel ships must be built in line with a standard model designed by experts based on feedback from local ship owners and travel agencies, he stressed.
Recently, Quang Ninh issued a temporary regulation that allows wooden ships to operate in the bay for a maximum of 15 years, as opposed to the 25 years regulated in Decree 111/2014/ND-CP.
Khanh said the change was made for safety reasons, as this type of ship degrades more quickly in saltwater and is more affected by strong winds in Ha Long Bay.
After the 15-year duration, they still can travel outside the bay, he noted.
Currently there are 80 steel ships travelling around the bay. In the last three years, no fatal accidents were reported in the scenic waters.
Quang Ninh aims to welcome five million tourists to Ha Long Bay by 2020, up from 2.2 million in 2015.
Ha Long Bay, which spans 1,553 square kilometres and includes 1,969 islands of various sizes, was twice recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 and 2000.
In 2011, it outranked 261 other landscapes from around the world to be voted one of the seven New Natural Wonders of the World.
The bay is an iconic destination for visitors to Quang Ninh province, with its rich biodiversity, stunning beauty, and significant historical and cultural value.