Sun, Apr 19, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Investigation turns up dirt on foreign-owned freight ship

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Coast guard officials and Hualien prosecutors yesterday said they found evidence that the Panamanian freighter Tosa was the ship involved in a collision that capsized the Taiwanese fishing vessel Hsing Tong-chuan 86 on Friday.

Coast guard officials said they escorted the Panamanian freighter to Hualien for further investigation.

The freighter arrived at Hualien Harbor about 3pm yesterday and is now under investigation by Hualien prosecutors.

Hualien Coast Guard Deputy Chief Yang Chao-ching (楊朝卿) said they spent nearly a day in contact with the Tosa’s owners through diplomatic channels before escorting the freighter to Hualien for investigation.

Investigators said they discovered fishing gear believed to belong to the Taiwanese boat that must have become entangled with the ship during the collision.

Hsing Tong-chuan’s captain Ho Hsi-chuan (何西川) and chief engineer Hsu Chung-wen (許聰文) remained missing at press time yesterday.

Taiwanese and Japanese coast guard personnel continued their search for the missing men near the disputed Diaoyutai Islands, a fishery official said yesterday.

The 99-tonne boat, based in Suao, Ilan County, capsized 37km west of the Diaoyutai Islands early on Friday.

Eleven of the 13 crew manning the vessel were rescued by fishing boats operating nearby.

Officials from the Maritime Patrol Directorate General under the Coast Guard Administration said a Japanese diver combed the interior of the sunken ship on Friday evening but did not find the missing men.

Coast guard personnel from Taiwan and Japan will continue searching during the 72-hour “golden time” for rescue, the officials said.

At first, three ships were suspected of involvement in the incident and the Panamanian tanker initially refused to put into Hualien Harbor for investigation, continuing its voyage to Singapore escorted by a coast guard vessel.

The two other ships — the Fratzis Star of the Marshall Islands and the Hong Kong-registered CHS World — were also stopped, but were allowed to continue after radar data showed they were far from the collision site at the time.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials said Japan had dispatched five speed boats, two helicospters and three divers to assist in the search and rescue mission, while four Taiwanese coast guard ships and helicopters from the National Airborne Service Corps were also mobilized.

The rescued Hsing Tong Chuan crew members include one Taiwanese fisherman, two Chinese, six Indonesians and two Filipinos.

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