The government has dispatched a coast guard vessel to rescue a fishing boat suspected of being hijacked by Indonesian crew members, Benjamin Ho (何登煌), director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said yesterday.
Ho said that a coast guard vessel anchored in Fiji for refueling was ordered to rescue the Te Hung Hsing No. 368, registered in Suao (蘇澳), Yilan County, which has not been in contact with its Taiwanese owner since Monday last week.
The ministry has notified the nation’s six diplomatic allies in the region that Taiwan would like their coast guards to conduct onboard inspections of the Te Hung Hsing No. 368 should they come across the fishing boat, and has also requested help from New Zealand and Australia, Ho said.
Ho said that the 1,853-tonne coast guard vessel, which can reach speeds of up to 11 knots, is expected to catch up with the 98-tonne fishing boat, which has a top speed of roughly 6 knots to 7 knots, in the waters off Kiribati in two or three days’ time.
The fishing boat, which has a Taiwanese skipper, a Taiwanese chief engineer and nine Indonesian fishermen on board, has been deep-sea fishing in the eastern Pacific from Nanfangao (南方澳) port since January.
It lost contact when it was about 527 nautical miles (976km) northwest of the port of Papeete in French Polynesia.
The government suspects that the boat has been hijacked by the Indonesian crew members on board, because signals received from the vessel monitoring system (VMS) showed that it had not engaged in fishing operations since it lost contact.
The signals showed that the fishing boat is now moving in a westerly direction, possibly toward Indonesia, the ministry said.