Thu, Feb 13, 2020 - Page 3 News List

Virus Outbreak: Coast guard stops ‘illegal’ mask shipment

EXPORT BAN:Officials said that the captain of the boat in which more than 71,000 masks were found likely planned to pass them off to another boat while at sea

By Liu Yu-ching and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Officials from the Coast Guard Administration and other agencies in Magong City, Penghu County, yesterday inspect boxes of masks confiscated from the fishing vessel Ji Cheng Fa.

Photo: Liu Yu-ching, Taipei Times

With the nation banning mask exports, Coast Guard Administration officials in Penghu County yesterday seized tens of thousands of masks on board a fishing vessel.

The boat, the Ji Cheng Fa, was reporting to customs in Magong when officials boarded the vessel and found the boxes of masks, the agency said, adding that it was investigating their source and distributor.

There were more than 71,000 masks in 195 boxes, of which 70 contained N95 respirators, officials said.

When questioned, the boat’s captain said that he planned to give the masks to friends in the county’s Wangan (望安) and Cimei (七美) islands.

As there is a ban on mask exports, people are allowed to carry only up to five boxes of masks for personal use when passing through customs, officials said.

Given the large quantity of masks, particularly the medical-grade respirators, found onboard the boat, the coast guard said that it would need to conduct an investigation.

It said it had already reported the case to the Penghu Public Health Bureau.

The masks were confiscated and distributed to front-line medical personnel, it said.

Officials said that they suspected the ship’s captain planned to pass the masks off to another boat while at sea, and that they had advised officials stationed on Wangan and Cimei to be on the lookout for other boats smuggling masks.

The ban on mask exports is in effect from Jan. 24 to Feb. 23 to ensure an adequate supply of masks for domestic use, Coast Guard Administration 7th Corps Deputy Chief Cheng Wen-hao (鄭文豪) said.

The masks were confiscated in accordance with Article 39 of the Customs Anti-smuggling Act (海關緝私條例) and the captain would be fined three times the value of the masks in accordance with Article 36 of the act, he said.

Additional reporting by CNA

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