Going to the sea since childhood, Do Van Trung, 44, from Phu Trung hamlet in Nghia An commune of Quang Ngai town, is one of the most experienced fishermen in the locality.
In 2018, Trung mortgaged his house to borrow VND 5 billion from a bank to buy two fishing boats with a total capacity of 1,240 horsepower. The boats were worth 9 billion VND.
Owning two large vessels, Trung, together with his 15 partners, went to the high seas to catch fish. Each sea trip, which lasted an average of 20 days, earned him 150 million VND.
At first, the fishing was very good, which enabled Trung to pay off his debts on time. However, he started having difficulties at the end of 2018 and could not pay his debts. As a result, the bank stopped lending and fishing was suspended.
Sitting on the fishing boat valued at billions of dong which has been ashore for four years, Trung said he not only borrowed money to buy the two boats, but also borrowed 700 million VND to buy fish. fuel, necessities and paying partners in advance. When the bank stopped the disbursement, he could no longer go fishing.
One of his fishing boats is now ashore at Tho Quang fishing port in Da Nang, while the other is in Nghia An township.
Due to difficulties, Trung decided to sell the boats.
“I spent almost 10 billion VND to buy the two boats and equip them with machinery. But now the bank has assessed their value at just 200 million VND. However, despite the low price, the ships have not sold for the past four years,” he said.
His total debts, including principal and interest, reached VND 6 billion.
Looking at the idle ship at Co Luy wharf (Nghia An commune), Trung said: “Every month when the bank staff comes to do the paperwork, my wife and I are shaking because we are afraid that the house will be seized. If that happens, our family will be empty-handed, my wife and three children will not have a home.”
Next to Trung’s tattered ship is the ship of Le Thi Tien, 46, from Pho An village.
In 2011, Tien borrowed VND 4 billion to buy two ships with a total capacity of 1,240 horsepower.
In the first years, the company worked well, which enabled it to regularly settle its bank debts. However, since 2017, the fishing area has been depleting aquatic resources due to the sharp increase in the number of vessels. As a result, his fishing became stagnant.
In May 2019, Tien and his family could no longer hold on, so they had to leave the boats ashore.
In June 2021, they sold one of the boats for 700 million VND and paid the bank debt. The other boat was put up for sale, but no one asked to buy it. As it was exposed to sun and rain, it was seriously damaged.
“We still owe 3.2 billion VND and we cannot pay our debts. My husband, who owned two fishing boats worth billions of dong, had to quit his job as a sailor. He is now a factory worker who receives 5 million VND per month and makes do with this modest income,” Tien said.
Behind the multi-billion dong vessels that once passed through the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa fishing grounds and are now being sold at a discount are economically depleted fishermen.
Fishermen need help
In the sweltering July sun, Do Minh Dung, 52, in Tam Quang township, was seen fixing a battery for a small boat he will use to fish along the river.
“The big ship was my whole fortune and it was sold to pay the bank debt of 200 million VND. I have to change my job and work as an employee, because I don’t know what new job I can have at my age” , he complains.
Dung said he borrowed 600 million VND to build a boat worth 1.15 billion VND in 2017. He and three other fishermen went to Truong Sa fishing area to fish, and each trip has lasted 16 days.
“I made four trips until the day I sold the boat. But no trip can bring profit,” he said.
The fuel cost him 30 million VND and the salary of three partners was 21 million VND. As such, he had to spend at least 51 million VND for each trip, while the income was only 45 million VND.
“I will go deep sea fishing if fuel prices go down and stabilize,” he said.
Ho Giap – Ngoc Vien – Cong Sang