Decree 160/ND-CP dated December 18, 2003, sets out regulations for the opening and closing of ports, shipping operations and coordinating activities between specialized agencies at port and shipping zones in order to guarantee maritime security, order and hygiene as well as prevent environmental pollution.
The decree states that all domestic and foreign organizations and individuals are permitted to construct and operate seaports and piers in accordance with Vietnam's laws on the management of investment and construction. The opening of ports and piers must suit Vietnam's port system development plan which has been approved by relevant agencies.
The regulations stated in the decree do not apply to military ports which are used only for national defence purposes or fishing ports which are used for fisheries operations outside of port waters.
As regards maritime operations, regulations have also prescribed port entry and exit procedures for foreign ships, which are required to apply for permission to enter Vietnamese ports except in certain special cases.
Non-military foreign ships and nuclear-powered ships must send port entry applications to port authorities 24 hours prior to sailing to the pilot's station (where pilots provide ship guiding services). Foreign ships that come to conduct scientific research, fishing, rescue operations, salvage sunken property and maritime construction projects or training must produce permits or documents approving such activities issued by the Vietnamese agencies concerned.
Foreign naval ship's entry procedures shall be completed in accordance with the regulations stipulated in Decree 55/CP dated January 10, 1996. The prime minister will grant permission at the request of the Ministry of Transport for nuclear-powered vessels to enter ports.
Ships of various types, regardless of nationality, shall be permitted to operate in Vietnam's seaport waters and maritime areas if they meet sufficient conditions regarding maritime safety, environmental pollution prevention measures and other conditions required by law.
Foreign and domestic ships of 1,000 GT and over will have to stop at the pilot stations until they are permitted to enter ports by port authorities.
If a ship receives permission to leave a port but remains there more than 24 hours from the time it received permission, it must go through exit procedures again. Shipowners or ship agents are fully responsible for any delay in entering or leaving a port that they have caused. In case a ship must stay on at a port as long as 12 hours, the ship's captain must notify the port authority of the extra stay.
Foreign and domestic ships of 2,000GT and over must have pilots guide them into and out of ports and within port waters or other areas where pilot guidance is required.
Attending maritime accidents is a compulsory duty of all shipping organizations and individuals when they are operating in the port waters and maritime areas.
When aware of an accident or danger of an accident, people must immediately send out an SOS message and take necessary measures to save lives and property and limit losses.
The decree also stipulates responsibilities for ensuring security, order and hygiene at ports and maritime areas. All organizations, individuals and vessels are obliged to respect and execute legal regulations on environmental pollution and fire prevention.
Only in special cases when entry procedures are to be carried out on board can specialized management agencies from a procedure team led by a representative of the port authority, and only one person from each of the agencies concerned can be a member of such a team.
As for passenger ships, in order to complete procedures quickly, border police and customs can send their officers to join the team but the port authority must approve the number of officers.
Inspection of ships by state management agencies shall be carried out only in cases where ships show clear signs of offences against the law, or in cases whre it is necessary to guarantee national defence and security, protection against epidemics and protection of social order and security.