Vietnam will try to leverage its sea-based resources to the utmost and develop its coastal economic zones vigorously, said Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung.
Speaking at a recent meeting on the 2010 socio-economic agenda, Deputy PM Hung added that the Government is also focused on safeguarding the country’s sovereignty in the nearby seas and islands,
Nguyen Chu Hoi, Deputy Director of the Department for Seas and Islands under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, noted that Vietnam has a coastline of 3,260km and that coastal areas make up about 17 percent of the country’s total area. He said that 23 percent of the population live along or near the coastline.
Senior researcher Truong Dinh Hien said that the sea-based economy was a large field encompassing commercial exchange, technology and economic investment establishment of big industry, economic zones, urban chains, a coastal port system, services, tourism, infrastructure, national defence and security, sea-based constructions, mineral and oil exploitation, fishing and fish processing.
"The expansion of our sea-based economy would lead to big changes in society," Mr Hien said.
Fisheries is a sector of the sea-based economy that contributed more than US$4.2 billion to Vietnam's export turnover last year and created jobs for more than 1.5 million people.
However, the industry’s development is out of balance, according to Le Duc Toan, Deputy Chairman of the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations.
The maritime sector had not planned its investment, resulting in a waste of money and human resources and causing fisheries to operate at a mere 30-40 percent of their potential.
Offshore fishing lacked large ships which limited its capacity, and inshore fishermen were destroying the environment with explosives, he said.
In addition, Vietnam had carried out only minimal studies of sea-bed resources. Mr Toan said a study of the socio-economic effect of a sea-based economic strategy was needed.
He called for more investment in Vietnam’s navy and good cooperation with other countries to safeguard the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea.
Sea tourism had great potential, with increasing investment, he said, but the industry still lacked essential services.
According to Nguyen Chu Hoi, exploitation of the sea and islands has brought some initial social and economic benefits, but the current use of the national resources is not efficient or sustainable.
Officials of the Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelago, which belongs to Khanh Hoa province, were starting to tap its potential, said Nguyen Viet Thuan, Deputy Chairman of Truong Sa district.
"We are carrying out a shipbuilding project on Song Tu Tay Island and some of the other big islands to boost the economy of the region," he said.
Mr Thuan said the industry not only needs to work out an offshore fishing programme with good facilities, but also to provide poor fishermen from the coastal region a shelter from storms.
He added that a project was under way on Da Tay Island to raise white pomfrets that are much better than those raised on the mainland.