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Cruise operators try to fight possible closure of Vietnam wharf
By Thanh Nien News -

Restaurant boats on the Saigon River. Photo credit: TBKTSG Restaurant boats on the Saigon River. Photo credit: TBKTSG

Cruise operators in Bach Dang Wharf in Ho Chi Minh City have launched a frantic appeal to keep their doors open in 2015 following an abrupt announcement of its closure.
On December 24, the city’s transport department met with several cruise operators to inform that they will close the waterfront in the city downtown to tourism in the new year, news website Thoi bao Kinh te Saigon (Saigon Times) reported.
An official from the department claimed that the closure was meant to make way for improvements. After that, the city will decide whether to let the tourism boats return or not, the official said.
On Wednesday, the city's transport department issued a directive allowing the cruise operators to operate for another 15 days -- until January 15.
An Son Lam, director of Indochina Junk Company, told the news site that the announcement caught the businesses off guard.
“We are really shocked and confused. We don’t know where to put our boats now or how we are going to fulfill the contracts we've already signed with our customers,” said Lam, who owns three restaurant boats and seven pleasure cruise ships docked in the wharf on the Saigon River.
Lam said the news came during an informal meeting and hadn't been laid out in an official statement.
He said the city should have give them more time to adjust their business plans and find a new place to operate.
Lam said his company would lose around VND100 million (US$4,680) for every day that they are prevented from operating.
Around 40 boats currently operate along the wharf, which sees thousands of tourists a day.
Many boat owners have already signed contracts with the city for the coming year.
Lam and four other companies operating in the wharf (My Canh, 168, Song Xanh and Vina Express) have signed a petition with the HCMC People’s Committee, the municipal administration, seeking permission to continue operating.
They warned that the sudden closure would force them into bankruptcy and leave hundreds of their workers out of a job.
Nguyen Thanh Liem, a board member of the Vina Express hydrofoil firm, said his company since December 23 has resumed the service, ferrying passengers between HCMC and the coastal resort town of Vung Tau at half price after a year-long hiatus.
All four trips were almost fully occupied on Thursday, Liem said. He said the firm would continue to petition the authorities to let it operate at least until December 30 so it could have enough time to find a new wharf.
Vina Express has asked for permission to operate at the nearby Nha Rong Wharf, but it remains to be seen if the authorities would give the go ahead, he said.
"We're waiting with bated breath. It's really tough to find a new wharf in such short notice."