Saigon to Vung Tau by Ferry Boat

Last updated December 2019 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle

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Taking the fast boat ferry between Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and Vung Tau is one of Vietnam’s most underrated journeys. It’s a fascinating voyage from the skyscrapers of downtown Saigon, along several busy rivers, through mangrove forest, and across open sea to Vung Tau (with a new, optional stop at Can Gio, near the river mouth). What it may lack in natural beauty, it more than makes up for in interest. Indeed, this journey is a more rewarding riverine experience than many Mekong Delta boat tours. What’s more, Vung Tau, especially during the week, is a very attractive, affluent, and peaceful seaside getaway. Even after the opening on an upgraded highway between Saigon and Vung Tau, taking the boat is still far more enjoyable, comfortable, and scenic. Going by bus, taxi, or motorbike is simply a means to an end; going by boat is an experience. Below is my full guide to the Saigon→Vung Tau→Can Gio Fast Boat Ferry.

Saigon→Vung Tau→Can Gio ferry boat, VietnamOne of Vietnam’s most underrated journeys: the Saigon↔Vung Tau fast boat ferry route is a fascinating ride

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GUIDE: SAIGONVUNG TAU BY FERRY


A new fleet of modern fast boats, operated by Greenlines, has replaced the old, characterful but unreliable hydrofoils that used to ply the route (one of which famously caught fire on the river in January 2014). At around 2 hours, journey time is comparable to going by road, although ticket prices are roughly twice the cost of the bus ride (but it’s well worth the extra expense). On this page I’ve written a full guide to taking the fast boat ferry between Saigon and Vung Tau (including the optional stop at Can Gio). I’ve organized this guide into several sections:

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ROUTE MAP:

Saigon↔Vung Tau Ferry Route

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SEARCH & BOOK TICKETS:

*Please support Vietnam Coracle: you can search ferry times, prices, and make bookings directly from this page by using the Baolau.com search boxes & links throughout this guide. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.

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Ferry Operators & Contacts:

The Saigon↔Vung Tau ferry route is operated by Greenlines (www.greenlines-dp.com | tel: 0988 009 579), who run fast boats at least four times a day in both directions. 


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The Greenlines website is very clear, well-presented, well-organized, and available in English and Vietnamese. Over the phone, staff are helpful but you may struggle to get clear information if you conduct the call purely in English (even though staff on the other end of the line do have some English, phone conversations are very difficult in a second language). Greenlines have ticket offices at the boat piers in Saigon and Vung Tau (and Can Gio). You can also find current times, prices, and book tickets through Baolau.com. Note: sailing times and prices are subject to change, especially due to weather conditions. Always double check before you leave). 

Greenlines Saigon-Vung Tau ferry boat, VietnamGreenlines is the the boat company operating daily ferries between Saigon & Vung Tau (and Can Gio)


*Please support Vietnam Coracle: you can search ferry times, prices, and make bookings directly from this page by using the Baolau.com search boxes & links throughout this guide. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.

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Schedules & Sailing Times:

The Greenlines fast boat schedule is pretty simple and straightforward: there are four sailings a day in both directions on weekdays (Monday-Friday), with an extra two sailings a day on weekends (Saturday & Sunday). Journey time is 2 hours. [See the Greenlines website or Baolau.com for availability & booking tickets]:

  • SAIGON→VUNG TAU: 8.00am, 10.00am, 12.00noon, 2.00pm (plus weekends: 9.00am, 4.00pm)
  • VUNG TAU→SAIGON10.00am, 12.00noon, 2.00pm, 4.00pm (plus weekends: 1.00pm 3.00pm) 

Can Gio Extra Stop: Two of the daily sailings in both directions make an additional stop at Can Gio, which is at the mouth of the river as it empties into the sea. Journey time from Saigon to Can Gio is 90 minutes, and from Vung Tau to Can Gio is 30 minutes. Below are the two daily sailings that make the additional stop at Can Gio:

  • SAIGON→CAN GIO8.00am, 2.00pm (arriving Can Gio: 9.30am, 3.30pm)
  • VUNG TAU→CAN GIO10.00am, 2.00pm (arriving Can Gio: 10.30am, 2.30pm) 

Weather permitting, most Greenlines boats depart/arrive on-time. But sailing times are liable to change without notice if conditions are bad. If the weather has been particularly windy or stormy recently, check by phone or at the ticket office to make sure your boat is scheduled to leave on time.

Greenlines Saigon-Vung Tau ferry boat, VietnamGreenlines boats sail 4 times a day in both directions with an additional 2 sailings on weekends


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*Please support Vietnam Coracle: you can search ferry times, prices, and make bookings directly from this page by using the Baolau.com search boxes & links throughout this guide. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.

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Ticket Prices & Booking:

Ticket prices are fairly reasonable for the 2-hour voyage and level of comfort, not to mention the experience of the journey. However, prices rise on weekends and public holidays. Below are the ticket prices at the time of latest update (December 2019), but for current prices and booking check Baolau.com & the Greenlines website:


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SAIGON→VUNG TAU | VUNG TAU→SAIGON (one-way)

  • Adult: 240,000vnd (weekends: 280,000vnd | holidays: 320,000vnd)
  • Adult over 62 years: 170,000vnd (weekends: 240,000vnd | holidays: 260,000vnd)
  • Child 6-11 years old: 120,000vnd (weekends: 150,000vnd | holidays: 180,000vnd)
  • Child under 6 years old: free
  • Bicycle: 100,000vnd (motorbikes are not allowed)

SAIGON→CAN GIO | VUNG TAU→CAN GIO (one-way)

  • Adult [Saigon→Can Gio]: 170,000vnd (weekends: 220,000vnd | holidays: 240,000vnd)
  • Adult [Vung Tau→Can Gio]: 110,000vnd (weekends: 120,000vnd | holidays: 140,000vnd) 

Tickets can be booked online via Baolau.com or the Greenlines website up to a day before departure. Otherwise, you can book by phone (0988 009 579), or at the Greenlines ticket offices at the ferry piers in Saigon, Vung Tau and Can Gio. Generally, it’s not necessary to book in advance, unless you’re travelling on a weekend or public holiday (and maybe a Friday, too). However, it’s still a good idea to book your ticket a day before departure, especially if you have an appointment to keep.

Greenlines Saigon-Vung Tau ferry boat, VietnamTickets can be booked online, over the phone, or in person at the ferry piers in Saigon & Vung Tau


*Please support Vietnam Coracle: you can search ferry times, prices, and make bookings directly from this page by using the Baolau.com search boxes & links throughout this guide. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.


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Departure & Arrival Ports:

The arrival and departure ports in Saigon and Vung Tau have changed since the days of the old hydrofoils. In Saigon, boats depart from Bach Dang Pier, in downtown District 1; in Vung Tau boats leave from the Ho May Tourist Pier, just west of Front Beach (Bãi Trước); and in Can Gio boats depart from the pier northwest of town. Taxis and motorbike taxis meet the boats at all ports:

Greenlines Saigon-Vung Tau ferry boat, Vietnam


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SAIGON PORT: All fast boats to Vung Tau (and Can Gio) arrive/depart from the Bach Dang Pier in downtown Saigon. Located right in the heart of the city, the Bach Dang Pier should be easy to find. However, make sure you go to the Bach Dang Fast Boat Pier (Bến Tàu Cao Tốc Bạch Đằng), not the Bach Dang Waterbus Pier (Ga Tàu Thủy Bạch Đằng). It doesn’t really matter, because the two piers are only a hundred meters or so apart, but that could make all the difference if you’re in a rush to catch the ferry. At the ferry terminal, you’ll find the Greenlines ticket kiosk. There’s a decent cafe on the pier where you can wait with a coffee or juice before departure time. From the pier, the views upriver back towards District 1 and Binh Thanh are impressive.

Greenlines ferry at Bach Dang Pier, Saigon, VietnamFrom Saigon, Greenlines boats depart from the Bach Dang Pier in downtown District 1

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VUNG TAU PORT: Boats arrive/depart from the Ho May Tourist Pier, also known as Hòn Rù Rì harbour. This port is at the northern end of Bãi Trước (Front Beach), beneath the green slopes of Núi Lớn (Big Mountain) and the grand, French colonial Governor General’s House. Boats dock at the end of a long pier, which doubles as a restaurant and cafe. A handful of taxis meet the boats, or you can walk along the pleasant seafront road to the waterfront cafes and hotels. The Greenlines ticket kiosk is located at the port entrance, on Tran Phu Street.

Greenlines ferry at Ho May Pier, Vung Tau, VietnamIn Vung Tau, Greenlines boats dock at the Ho May Tourist Pier, just west of the Front Beach (Bãi Trước)


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CAN GIO PORT: The fast boat ferry port in Can Gio is a 5-minute drive northwest of the main town. It’s a fairly quiet place with a few food and drink shacks and a collection of wooden fishing boats and patrol ships floating on the muddy water, sheltering among the reeds.

Greenlines ferry port at Can Gio Pier, VietnamCan Gio Port is an inlet off the main river, filled with wooden fishing boats


*Please support Vietnam Coracle: you can search ferry times, prices, and make bookings directly from this page by using the Baolau.com search boxes & links throughout this guide. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.

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The Boats:

Unlike the old hydrofoils – which looked pretty worn and forlorn – the new fast boats operated by Greenlines are clean, and, on the surface at least, well-maintained. All Greenlines vessels are painted blue and white. The crafts look quite smart from the outside, with pointy hulls and a speedy, aerodynamic appearance.

Greenlines Saigon-Vung Tau ferry boat, VietnamSoviet-era hydrofoils on the Saigon-Vung Tau route have been replaced by a fleet of modern fast boats

Boats are boarded at the stern, where there’s a decent covered deck with a bench and also two clean toilet cubicles. If, like me, you love boat journeys, then you’ll probably find that you spend most of the voyage sitting out on this back deck, watching the shipping and scenery pass by. But sometimes staff don’t allow passengers on deck, presumably because of rough conditions.

Greenlines Saigon-Vung Tau ferry boat, VietnamBest seat on the boat: all ferries have a covered back deck on which to sit out and enjoy the scenery

However, inside things are just as good. A surprisingly wide, high-ceilinged, bright and clean cabin seats around 50-75 passengers. There are two or three rows of soft, coach-style seats with plenty of leg-room. The cabin is air-conditioned to a reasonable temperature (not freezing cold as on some ferries in Vietnam). The windows are very large so you can enjoy the passing scenery from your seat. There’s even WiFi available. Complimentary refreshments include water, coffee and a cake. As well as that, there’s a little bar at the front of the cabin, selling pot noodles and soft drinks. The majority of passengers are foreign travellers, expats, and Vietnamese holidaymakers. Staff are young, quite friendly and polite. There are electrical sockets to plug your gadgets into, and there’s on-board WiFi, but it’s not that strong.

Greenlines Saigon-Vung Tau ferry boat, VietnamInside, the cabin is large, bright and air-conditioned, and seating is comfortable, clean, spacious

On board ‘entertainment’ comes in the form of a TV which shows, depending on the whim of the captain, anything from terrible pop music to prank-style comedy to Vietnamese soap operas. But the volume is mercifully low (unlike the fast boats to Phu Quoc Island) so it doesn’t intrude into your headspace. It’s also good to bear in mind the reason for this entertainment: it’s not just to pass the time on a 2-hour journey; it’s also to offer a distraction from the waves, especially for Vietnamese passengers who commonly suffer from travel sickness.

Saigon to Vung Tau ferry boat, VietnamOn board entertainment comes in the form of TV shows & pop music, but it’s at a reasonable volume

Ever since one of the old hydrofoils caught fire on the river in 2014, forcing passengers to evacuate onto the muddy riverbank (which was the beginning of the end for those Soviet-era relics on this route), safety has been a major concern, both for passengers and ferry operators between Saigon and Vung Tau. In general, Vietnam has a pretty awful maritime safety record, but things are changing. Also, it should be pointed out that travelling between Saigon and Vung Tau by road is statistically far more dangerous than taking the boat. All Greenlines ferries have life vests under every passenger seat. During the voyage, two engineers are constantly opening up the hatches on the back deck to check the state of the engine. The barrier on the back deck is a little low and the latch to the boarding gate could easily come loose: don’t lean on it, and take extra care if you’re travelling with children. Seasickness shouldn’t be a problem for most people, because the majority of the voyage is on placid rivers, but the last 30 minutes crossing open sea can be quite bumpy.

Saigon to Vung Tau ferry boat, VietnamSafety measures include life vests under every seat, life rafts & regular engine checks during the voyage

Lastly, these new boats are fast. Not 30 seconds after maneuvering out of port, the main engines power up and the boat ploughs its course, dodging all the other sluggish vessels on the river, churning up a silver-brown wake of river water and water hyacinths behind it.

Saigon to Vung Tau ferry boat, VietnamThe new boats are very fast and churn up a white wake which occasionally showers the back deck


*Please support Vietnam Coracle: you can search ferry times, prices, and make bookings directly from this page by using the Baolau.com search boxes & links throughout this guide. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.

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The Voyage:

The swif-looking Greenlines vessel casts off from the Bach Dang pier right in the heart of downtown Saigon. The gleaming high-rises of Saigon’s District 1 tower above the water as the boat drifts onto the swell of the wide Saigon River.

Saigon to Vung Tau ferry boat, VietnamThe Saigon-Vung Tau ferry pulls away from the pier in District 1 with the city skyline behind

The city’s major waterway is a constant presence if you live in Saigon, but when you are actually on it, as opposed to just looking at it, it’s a totally different experience. Saigon appears serene; without the noise, heat, congestion, and pollution that blights it on street level: from the river, this is a calm, controlled, and even beautiful, city. The old ferry between District 1 and 2 used to provide a similar experience, but since that went out of service with the opening of the Thu Thiem Tunnel in 2011, the fast boat to Vung Tau is one of the few ways to see the city from the water.

Saigon to Vung Tau ferry boat, VietnamLeaving the city in its wake, the fast boat picks up speed as it begins the 2 hour voyage to Vung Tau

Very soon after departure, the main engines kick in, the bow lifts up, and the speed picks up. The boats are seriously fast, and if you sit out on the back deck (which I tend to do for the duration of the voyage, if staff allow it) you’ll be sprayed intermittently by cooling showers of river water.

Saigon to Vung Tau ferry boat, VietnamWhen the engines power up the boat churns the water white, spraying the back deck with river water

The Saigon skyline recedes, very quickly, into the distance; disappearing around a bend, reappearing on the horizon, then fading out of sight again as the boat moves through a chicane of meanders. These bends make the journey immediately disorienting: Saigon landmarks, such at the Lotus Building (the Bitexco Tower) and the gleaming spire of Landmark 81 keep popping up to the east then to the west; behind the boat then in front of it, then disappearing altogether. It’s impossible to get your bearings.

Saigon to Vung Tau ferry boat, VietnamA chicane of meanders on the Saigon River makes the journey immediately disorienting

Sailing downriver, the skyscrapers of downtown give way to the sprawling, apartment-filled suburbs, and the Saigon docks which line the riverbanks for many kilometres. It’s fascinating to watch as the boat dodges all the different kinds of shipping: slipping between the bows of giant container vessels and freight ships, tugs and barges, fishing boats and canoes, tankers and warships.

Saigon to Vung Tau ferry boat, VietnamWatching all the different boats on this increasingly busy shipping lane is a lot of fun

After passing beneath the soaring blade of concrete that is the Phu My Bridge, the boat veers right and joins the wider waters of the Dong Nai River. Continuing southwards into the Soai Rap River, the banks expand ever further apart, until they must span at least a couple of kilometres. Container ships are more numerous here but they’re made to appear small on the mighty, muddy river.

Saigon to Vung Tau ferry boat, VietnamPassing under the Phu My Bridge, a soaring blade of concrete over the Saigon River

With Saigon now out of sight, industry takes over. Warehouses, factories, oil depots, cement plants, coal, gas, wood, metal: the brawny industrial arm of the southern hub and all of the boats that supply it. It’s an utterly compelling sequence, so much so that you won’t want to sit down, go inside, or take your eyes off it for one minute for fear of missing something.

Saigon to Vung Tau ferry boat, VietnamThe brawny arm of the southern industrial hub: ships supply factories along the river banks

At the confluence of the Soai Rap and Long Tau rivers, an enormous new bridge is under construction. The fast boat continues straight ahead, due south on the Long Tau River. From here, greenery begins to colonize the riverbanks: concrete becomes a rare sight, small wooden fishing boats cast their nets into the wide waters, and the sky looms large over the flat expanse of boggy, delta land.

Saigon to Vung Tau ferry boat, VietnamEventually, greenery takes over the riverbanks and industry fades away

In order to avoid a detour on the Long Tau River, the fast boat takes a shortcut through a narrow channel lined with mangrove. This is a tight waterway, not big enough for larger ships. The banks are close together and the distinctive splayed roots of the mangrove trees are clearly visible. Suddenly, after all the urbanity and industrial activity of the first half of the journey, it’s now easy to imagine yourself sitting on the back of the boat in Apocalypse Now as it winds its way into the jungle, ever closer to Colonel Kurtz. The scenery is exotic and atmospheric. However, I’m not sure how environmentally sound it is. Mangrove are supposed to be one of the major lifelines for Vietnam if it is to avoid sinking into the ocean in the future. Their roots help anchor the land, which, in these swampy, delta regions, is nothing more than mud and silt. The waves from the wake of the fast boats surely can’t do any good to the stability of the mangrove trees.

Saigon to Vung Tau ferry boat, VietnamA narrow channel provides a shortcut through mangrove forests and small fishing communities

After rejoining the meandering arm of the Long Tau River, the Phu My Hills rise to the northeast. The water is brackish here: the colour changes, becomes lighter; the surface becomes ruffled as the wind picks up, and the banks are wider apart. The boat is nearing the mouth of the river. But before reaching the open sea, the boat may pull into the docks at Can Gio (if you’re travelling on one of the two daily sailings that include Can Gio).

Saigon to Vung Tau ferry boat, VietnamNearing the river mouth, the water becomes brackish & choppy, & large ships dwarf fishing boats

Out onto the open sea, rainy season clouds mushroom above the waiting container ships, threatening Vung Tau with a storm. The sea is rough and, for the first time, you can feel the vessel rising and falling with the swell. The air is clearer, saltier; the sky is bigger, the light sharper, the humidity lower – it’s hard not to get excited as you approach the rocky promontory under which the white structures of Vung Tau glint in the sun.

Saigon to Vung Tau ferry boat, VietnamOut on the open sea it’s cooler & brighter, and the excitement builds as the boat approaches Vung Tau

Through the increasing amounts of spray on the back deck, Vung Tau’s skyline comes into view: high-rise hotels along the seafront, red-roofed villas crawling up the hillside. It looks like an island in the East Sea, surrounded by boats of all shapes and sizes, including oil rigs, which have played their part in making this province one of the wealthiest in the country.

Saigon to Vung Tau ferry boat, VietnamVung Tau seen from the sea is a collection of hotels and houses at the bottom of Big Mountain (Núi Lớn)

It’s an exhilarating journey, but when the boat docks below Big Mountain (Núi Lớn) and the engines are cut, all that remains is the searing tropical heat and the sound of the sea lapping the concrete pier. It’s time to make your way along the seafront road for a coffee or settle into one of Vung Tau’s harbour-view hotels, like Leman Cap Resort, for a relaxing mini-break.

Vung Tau, VietnamThese days Vung Tau is a very pleasant place for a relaxing mini-break by the sea

Disclosure: I never receive payment for anything I write: my content is always free & independent. I’ve written this guide because I want to: I like this ferry route & I want my readers to know about it. For more details, see my Disclosure & Disclaimer statements here

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60 Responses to Saigon to Vung Tau by Ferry Boat

  1. Rebekah says:

    Just took the ferry from HCMC to VT today and they operated the boat out of Ga Tàu Thủy Bạch Đằng, not out of Bến Tàu Cao Tốc Bạch Đằng. Not sure the reasoning, but a bit unexpected and we had to rush back to the other pier (as you said, they aren’t far from each other thankfully!).

    This might be a new change, but regarding bicycles and motorbikes, the tickets and in person state that they are prohibited, but maybe that can be worked around still (it didn’t impact me, but I see a lot of people ask about it).

    Also, by booking 1+ day before, tickets were discounted by about 20,000 each.

    • Tom says:

      Hi Rebekah,

      Thanks for the info and updates. That’s strange that they used the other boat station today – I wonder if that’s going to be permanent.

      Motorbikes are never allowed, but bicycles should be, as long as the boat isn’t too full.

      Tom

  2. Jake says:

    Very helpful post that I used to sort out my trip down to Vung Tau. I found it a very comfortable and efficient service on Greenlines. I was also surprised at how pleasant Vung Tau was. An attractive place with friendly people and good hotels, restaurants and cafes. A perfect break from the bustle of HCMC.

  3. Greg Wiseman says:

    I see there is now a Vung Tau – Con Dao ferry. It leaves from the old ferry port. Information from the desk was a little scant!

    • Hi Greg,

      Yes, there’s always been a ferry service between Vung Tau and Con Dao, but now it’s a new, super fast boat service: it’s operated by Phu Quoc Express (or Con Dao Express) who use modern catamarans to make the daily journey in just over 3 hours, compared to the old ferries which took over 10 hours.

      Tom

  4. Justin Stubbs says:

    Hi Tom,
    We are a group of 7 adults and 6 children (age 8) planning on taking the ferry from Vung Tau to Ho Chi Minh.
    Could you please advise:
    – How rough is the open water around Vung Tau and how long does it last as we are concerned about Sea-sickness with the children. 6 sick children could destroy our (and other passengers) experience.
    – Could we buy food and drink on-board or can we take our own (including a beer or 2)
    Kind Regards,
    Justin
    Ps- Excellent Guide

    • Hi Justin,

      There’s some food and drink on-board: snacks and soft drinks and possibly beer – but I can’t remember for sure.

      Of the 90-minute journey, only about 20 minutes is on open water. It’s usually not too rough, because when the waves are big, the boats don’t run. However, I can’t vouch for how the seas will be at a particularly time of year.

      If you’re really concerned about the seas, you can take a bus to Vung Tau instead. You can also check the sea conditions on Windy.com the day before you sail.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  5. Patrick says:

    Hi Tom,
    First please allow me to add my thanks to the list for this informative and inspiring post.
    From my own brief bit of research it looks like Greenline is now using new boats – catamarans – compared to the boats you describe above. Have you been on these? My main question is whether there is much ‘outdoor’ seating or standing area. Like you, I love a boat ride and love to be in the fresh air taking in the view. It’s just a bit hard to tell from the photos on the Greenline website if there’s space at the back (or elsewhere) where passengers are allowed to sit/stand for the journey.
    On the plus side, the seat map for these new boats shows a little bar in the cabin!
    Any info on first hand experience on the new boats would be much appreciated.

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