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Vietnamese mini-sub attracts local interest
By Trung Hieu - Thanh Nien News -
News about plans to sell five miniature submarines to coastal Malaysian resorts has sparked new interest at home, according to their inventor in Ho Chi Minh City.
Phan Boi Tran, who spent years working for French submarine manufacturer Comex, said a number of local businessmen have contacted him seeking subs.
Representatives from one company are expected to meet him soon to learn more about his products and possibly place an order, Tran said last week without offering a name.
“This company is major player in installing under-sea cables. They want to buy a sub to check on their work,” he said.
Five of his mini-subs were ordered in May for US$3,500 apiece by a handful of Malaysian resorts; the resorts are expected to buy more if they prove satisfactory.
Tran, the 60-year-old descendant of the patriotic scholar and talented diplomat Phan Boi Chau (1867-1940), won local fame in 2010 for successfully piloting the country’s first mini-sub, Yet Kieu 1.
Tran said the unnamed potential buyer wants to buy a vessel that's similar to the Yet Kieu 1, but can spend longer underwater.
“I cannot say the price yet as it depends on the customer’s requirements,” he said.
He said he once promoted his subs to travel agencies and resorts in Vietnam but they expressed no interest.
“Maybe they didn’t trust me or dare not take a risk,” he said. 
His invention has yet to receive official recognition from the government, but he is currently applying for a copyright to protect his design.
Tran studied chemistry at Aix-Marseille University in France at age 20, before switching to composite and plastics engineering.
He spent a few years working for Comex before returning to Vietnam in 2006 to open a company that specialized in designing machines, electric bicycles and toys.