The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday confirmed that a Taiwanese fishing vessel carrying 13 crew members had sunk near the Diaoyutai island chain in the early hours of the morning after it was allegedly hit by a foreign registered cargo liner.
At press time, Japanese and Taiwanese coast guards were still combing the sea looking for two Taiwanese nationals — captain Ho Hsi-chuan (何西川) and chief engineer Hsu Chung-wen (許聰文) — who were reported missing after the boat sank approximately 41km from the Diaoyutai islands.
Association for East Asian Relations Secretary-General Peter Tsai (蔡明耀) said the Japanese Coast Guard had dispatched five search and rescue boats, two helicopters and one deep-sea diver to help search for the missing crew of the Hsing Tong-chuan 86 (新同泉86號), which is registered at Suao (蘇澳), Ilan County.
The Taiwanese Navy has also dispatched three vessels to look for the missing men.
Tsai said the Japanese search and rescue boats arrived on the scene at about 2:15am, while Taiwanese rescue boats arrived at 2:47am.
The 13-member crew was composed of three Taiwanese, six Indonesians, two Filipinos and two Chinese.
Eleven were rescued by nearby fishing boats, he said.
Tsai said there were no confirmed details about the accident except that it was suspected that a Panamanian-registered cargo ship had hit the fishing boat before it sank at about 12:43am yesterday morning.
The Japanese then dispatched speedboats to search for the cargo ship to ascertain details of the incident.
MOFA Spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) expressed gratitude to Japan for its assistance and said the government would do its best to unite the missing men with their families.
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard Administration said yesterday that the Tosa, a 160,000 tonne Panamanian freighter, was suspected to be the ship that hit the fishing boat.
“This ship could be the one. But we need to investigate further,” said Hansen Hsu (徐漢慶), spokesman for the Coast Guard’s Maritime Patrol Directorate General.
Hsu said Coast Guard vessels had stopped all three foreign ships that could have been involved in the incident for further investigation.
They decided to let go the Fratzis Star of the Marshall Islands and the Hong Kong-based CHS World because radar data had shown the two ships were about 16km away from the collision site.
The Tosa however, was stopped by Coast Guard ships about 74km from Hualien at 11:30am yesterday.
Investigations were ongoing as of press time.
“We are still trying to figure it out at the moment,” Hsu said.
Hsu said that the Coast Guard received news of the incident at 12:38am yesterday and immediately deployed five vessels with 81 crewmembers to the site for rescue work and to intercept the foreign boats.
Coast Guard records show that the 99.81 tonne fishing boat left Suao with a crew of 13 at 6:31am on Wednesday.
Ho and Hsu were still missing as of press time yesterday.