Mon, Feb 14, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Search for missing freighter continues

DISAPPEARANCE Taiwanese and Japanese Coast Guard crews have been looking for the `Juitai 8` since Saturday and yesterday reported finding some debris from the ship

STAFF WRITER , WITH AGENCIES

Japanese and Taiwanese Coast Guard officials were continuing air and sea searches in the hope of locating a missing Taiwanese freighter yesterday, but some expressed concern it may have capsized.

The Kaohsiung-registered Juitai 8 (瑞太八號), and its 18 crew members have been missing since Friday, when it failed to show up at a Japanese port as scheduled. The company owning the ship reported it missing early Saturday.

Debris Found

Officials at the Coast Guard Administration said a search vessel found the remnants of a yellow life boat and some steel bottles at 10:05am yesterday about 60km southeast of Suao, Ilan County. The items were later confirmed by Juibang Marine Transportation (瑞邦海運), the owner of the freighter, as belonging to the missing ship.

The 18 crew members on the ship include 12 Taiwanese, as well as four Burmese and two Indonesians.

Juitai 8 departed from Hualien Harbor on Thursday and had been headed for Ishigaki Island in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture.

Last Contact

The last contact with the vessel was at 7:58pm on Thursday, when the crew reported its location, which was about 31km from Hualien Airport, to Juibang Marine Transportation.

No other location updates were received from the crew after that time.

The 5,000-tonne freighter, equipped with Global Positioning System technology, then failed to arrive as scheduled in Ishigaki on Friday afternoon.

Early on Saturday morning, Juibang Marine filed a missing report with the National Rescue and Coordination Center. The center has dispatched one helicopter and six patrol vessels over the past three days to search for the vessel.

Coast Guard Administration officials yesterday speculated that the freighter might have capsized.

According to the officials, it was likely the crew had not been able to send out rescue signals before the freighter, which was carrying 4,500 tonnes of gravel, was swallowed by huge waves.

Second Instance

The disappearance of the Juitai 8 reminded many officials of a similar incident involving another gravel ship, the Hualien 1 (花蓮一號), which vanished five years ago.

The two ships have a number of aspects in common: both were transporting gravel, both departed from Hualien Harbor on a dark February night in inclement weather, and both vanished without a trace and without any radio contact.

The Hualien 1 had 21 crewmen aboard, including 14 Taiwanese and seven Burmese.

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