A wooden boat modeled on a 15th century Ming dynasty warship was hit by a cargo vessel and sank 30 nautical miles (55.5km) off Ilan County just one day before it was due to complete a historic roundtrip crossing of the Pacific.
The Princess Taiping departed Keelung last June and arrived in San Fransico last October via Japan and Hawaii. It was due to arrive in Keelung today.
Early yesterday, however, it collided with a vessel identified as the Liberian-registered Champion Express.
Although Princess Taiping broke up and sank, all 11 crewmembers were rescued in a joint effort by the military, the police and the Coast Guard Administration. They suffered minor injuries.
The 62-year-old captain, Nelson Liu (劉寧生), decided to build the boat in the style of Ming warship because he wanted to challenge the records set by Ming Admiral Zheng He (鄭和), who had sailed as far as the East African coast in the 15th century.
The Princess Taiping, 16m in length and 4.5m wide, was built with traditional materials and using traditional methods.
“I feel worse than the word ‘regret’ can describe, that I’ve completed 99 percent of the trip but failed to finish the last 1 percent,” Liu told reporters after being rescued. “I feel sorry for all the people who have supported me along the way.”
Liu said that he had communicated with the Champion Express before the accident, but it didn’t have enough time to avoid a collision.
The Coast Guard asked the Champion Express to sail to Taiwan for further investigation, but its captain refused and continued northward after finding out that no one had been killed in the incident. The Coast Guard could not force the Champion Express to sail to Taiwan because the collision occurred in international waters, but officials said that information on the collision would be provided to the Princess Taiping’s insurance company.
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