Distance limits imposed on vessels near Ha Long Bay’s iconic islets

Ha Long Bay, a breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Site in northeastern Vietnam, has long captivated visitors with its enchanting beauty. Among the numerous limestone karsts and islets scattered across the bay, the Trong Mai islets have emerged as an iconic symbol of Ha Long Bay’s allure. However, recent concerns have arisen regarding the stability and preservation of these remarkable formations.

According to experts, the Trong Mai islets have suffered from erosion and the development of cracks, particularly on their undersides. To prevent their potential collapse, the Quang Ninh Province Department of Transport has instructed vessels passing by the islets. They must adhere to a careful pace, ensuring they remain below 10 kilometers per hour, and maintain a minimum distance of 70 meters from the islets’ vicinity. To assist navigators in complying with these regulations, buoys have been strategically placed, serving as visual markers for the appropriate distance.

In July, a comprehensive report conducted by the Vietnam Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources shed light on the various natural factors threatening the stability of the Trong Mai islets. The report warned that these factors could ultimately lead to the islets’ collapse, presenting a significant risk even though tourists are not permitted to set foot on them. It emphasized the impact of passing vessels on the islets’ delicate structure, particularly highlighting the potential consequences of boats carrying four or more people traveling at speeds of 30 kilometers per hour. The resulting waves generated by these vessels could reach heights of 40–60 centimeters, while larger vessels could produce waves exceeding 80 centimeters, posing a severe threat to the islets’ stability and hastening their erosion.

To mitigate further erosion and safeguard the Trong Mai islets, researchers have proposed employing preventive measures such as anchors and cement. These measures aim to slow down the erosion process and prevent significant rock fragments from dislodging and falling off the islets.

The significance of preserving Ha Long Bay’s natural wonders cannot be overstated, as the region has already witnessed the loss of other notable formations. In 2016, the Thien Nga islets succumbed to collapse, while the Phu Tu islets in Kien Giang, designated as a “National landscape” in 1989, experienced a partial collapse in 2006. These incidents serve as poignant reminders of the fragility of these geological formations and the imperative to protect and sustain them for future generations.

Situated approximately seven kilometers from the Ha Long International Tourism Port, the Trong Mai islets stand tall, reaching heights of about 12 meters, and resemble a rooster and a hen. Their distinctive shapes have made them a cherished emblem of Ha Long Bay, and in 2000, they were officially chosen as Vietnam’s tourism symbol, representing the captivating allure of the entire region.

As Ha Long Bay continues to enchant visitors with its timeless beauty, concerted efforts are being made to preserve the Trong Mai islets. By adhering to the prescribed speed limits and maintaining a safe distance, vessels passing by can contribute to the long-term conservation of these natural wonders. The ongoing research and proposed protective measures underscore the commitment to safeguarding the unique karst landscape, maintaining ecological balance, and preserving the splendor of Ha Long Bay for generations to come.

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