Mon, Jun 08, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Ma plans ocean affairs ministry

COAST GUARD DRILL The president watched a mock terrorist assault in Kaohsiung Harbor, with ‘attackers’ seizing an oil tanker and a cruise boat

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER, WITH AGENCIES

Coast Guard Administration boats put out fires on a CPC Corp, Taiwan oil tanker that had been triggered by “bombs” detonated by “attackers” who hijacked the vessel during an anti-terrorism drill in Kaohsiung Harbor yesterday. President Ma Ying-jeou was among the officials watching the drill.

PHOTO: CHANG CHUNG-YI, TAIPEI TIMES

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday the government will draw up a two-stage plan to establish a ministry of oceanic affairs to oversee all maritime and fishery matters.

Ma made the remarks after presiding over an anti-terror exercise in Kaohsiung Harbor that replaced a live-fire military drill meant to simulate a Chinese attack.

“Setting up a ministry of oceanic affairs was a campaign pledge. It will be actualized through a two-stage plan,” he said. “In the first phase, a council on oceanic affairs will be set up. The council will then become a ministry of oceanic affairs when the time is ripe.”

Meanwhile, the government will appropriate NT$25 billion (US$767 million) by 2017 to acquire larger vessels to boost the Coast Guard Administration (CGA), he said, because the coast guard shoulders responsibility for the nation’s sea security alongside the navy.

During the drill at Hsinkuang Wharf (新光碼頭), speedboat-borne “terrorists” hijacked an oil tanker belonging to state-run CPC Corp, Taiwan and a cruise boat hired for next month’s 2009 World Games.

The “terrorists,” holding 23 hostages, then tried to dock at the wharf and launch a land attack.

Coast guard personnel launched a counter-assault by blocking off the wharf to stop the attackers from landing, while coast guard cutters surrounded the two hijacked ships. Helicopters hovered overhead to monitor the situation, while officers began negotiations with the terrorists.

Coast guard special unit divers then swam to the hijacked vessels, while other personnel prepared to descend by rope from the helicopters. A joint water and air assault was successful and the hostages were rescued — including some who were “pushed” into the sea — while the “terrorists” committed suicide by detonating bombs they were wearing.

Coast guard cutters quickly doused fires triggered by the “bombs” on the ships, while more helicopters dropped rope-mop oil skimmers around the ships to prevent possible oil leaks.

The CGA said 995 personnel took part in the drill, which involved eight helicopters and a total of 37 cruisers, cutters and other ships.

“It was very impressive. The officers were well trained and performed well,” Ma said afterwards.

Later yesterday, Ma visited National Kaohsiung Hospitality College, where he outlined his vision of Taiwan becoming a “tourism island” through a concerted effort by the private and public sectors.

“With reconciliation between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, we no longer need to spend time worrying about war,” Ma said in an address to the school’s faculty and students.

“It is therefore necessary for the authorities to make tourism one of our six flagship industries to develop Taiwan into a global tourist attraction,” he said.

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