Fri, Nov 16, 2007 - Page 3 News List

MOFA warns fishing vessels to steer clear of Somalia

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that fishermen should stay away from Somali waters following the arrival of a Taiwanese vessel in Kenya on Wednesday after it was held by Somali pirates for five-and-a-half months.

"We recommend fishermen be extra cautious when sailing there, [as it is] one of the world's most dangerous waterways," deputy ministry spokeswoman Phoebe Yeh (葉非比) said.

The Kaohsiung-based Ching Fong Hwa 168 was hijacked 220km northeast of Mogadishu in May. Two Taiwanese were on board, captain Lin Sheng-hsin (林勝信) and his son Lin Shang-yu (林上裕), as well as 10 Chinese crew members.

Yeh confirmed recent reports by international news agencies that said the ship had left Somali waters under US naval escort and had arrived in Kenya safely.

The Somali pirates reportedly demanded US$1 million in ransom, but the owner of the ship managed to negotiate the ransom down to US$220,000.

Yeh said the ministry was fully aware of the rescue mission, which she said was mainly orchestrated by the ship's owner, but did not mention the ransom.

Meanwhile, Yeh said the government has been working with Japan to search for the Chin Hsieh I 166, a Taiwanese fishing boat that disappeared near the Diaoyutai Islands five days ago.

The Maritime Safety Agency of Japan has sent helicopters and vessels to search for the fishing boat, as has the Coast Guard Administration, Yeh said.

On Nov. 10, relatives of captain Chih Yu-hsin (池玉信) alerted the National Rescue Command Center that they had lost contact with the Chin Hsieh.

The vessel had six Chinese and two Indonesian crew on board when it sailed north from Suao, Ilan, on Nov. 8 on its way to the Ryukyu Islands.

In related news, Yeh urged Indonesia to clarify an incident in which captain Hsu Pi-chang (許章碧) and three Taiwanese crew members went missing from the Sheng Eng 168. The fishing boat had eight Indonesian crewman. The four Taiwanese are feared dead.

The ministry's officer attending to the matter in Indonesia was quoted by Yeh as saying that the eight Indonesian fishermen, when questioned by police, accused Hsu of threatening them with a knife. They said this sparked a brawl.

"The eight Indonesian fishermen said Hsu fell into the sea during the fight and the other three Taiwanese jumped in to rescue Hsu, but we remain highly skeptical," Yeh said.

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