Thu, Apr 09, 2009 - Page 4 News List

US Defense Department probing ship’s hijacking

PIRACY The Taiwanese vessel that was hijacked near the Seychelles is the fifth to be hijacked since 2005. All four previous incidents were settled by paying a ransom

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The US Department of Defense is looking into the recent hijacking of a Taiwanese fishing boat in the Indian Ocean, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said yesterday.

“The US is concerned about the recent capture of a Taiwan fishing vessel in the Indian Ocean. The Department of Defense is looking into the incident,” said AIT Press Officer Larry Walker, who declined to elaborate on any details of the contact between the US and Taiwan on the issue.

The Ministry of Foreign ­Affairs on Monday night confirmed a media report that a ­Kaohsiung-­registered fishing boat, the Win Far 161, had possibly been hijacked by pirates near the Seychelles.

The vessel was reportedly captured along with a British cargo ship approximately 1,000km from the African coast, ministry spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) said.

“So far we have not been able to establish communications with the abductors, because the boat has not reached shore, but we know in which direction it is heading,” the ministry spokesman said.

It is the fifth Taiwanese vessel to be hijacked by pirates since 2005. All four previous incidents were settled by payment of a ransom, he added.

The skipper and the first engineer are both Taiwanese nationals, while the rest of the 30-member crew are from Indonesia, China and the Philippines.

The British bulk carrier Malaspina Castle has also been seized by pirates.

So far, Taiwanese authorities have sought assistance from the UK’s Maritime Trade Organization, the maritime liaison office of the US’ Bahrain-based Fifth fleet, the Seychelles fishery bureau and the Somalia harbor bureau.

In January, a vessel owned by Formosa Plastics reportedly came under the protection of Chinese naval ships to ward off possible attacks by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

At the time, the AIT released a statement through the Central News Agency saying that piracy was a global crime and that it had discussed with Taiwan the problem of piracy in the area, adding: “If any vessel is in distress anywhere in the world and requests assistance, the US Navy has a responsibility to render assistance, if feasible.”

The Chinese government has offered assistance to rescue the boat, but Taiwan has declined the offer, saying the Republic of China Navy is capable of protecting Taiwanese ships.

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