Boat returns after run-in with Vietnamese vessels

ALL AT SEA::The vessel’s skipper said his boat was stopped several times by Vietnamese government boats, but that this time no ransom was demanded

Staff writer, with CNA  / 

Mon, May 20, 2013 - Page 3

A Taiwanese fishing boat that was intercepted last week by Vietnamese government vessels on the high seas arrived home to Pingtung County on Saturday, with the skipper saying he was surprised that the boat was not seized by the Vietnamese government.

The boat, the Lung Wang Li No. 97 from Liouciou Township (琉球), was intercepted by Vietnamese government vessels at about 5am on Tuesday in waters about 790 nautical miles (1,400km) southwest of Oluanpi (鵝鑾鼻), according to the Coast Guard Administration.

Skipper Tseng Hsin-hsing (曾新興) said upon arrival that he was surprised that the Vietnamese government did not seize the boat given a previous experience.

The boat’s owner, Tsai Tien-yu (蔡天裕), said that in 1994, the Lung Wang Li No. 97 and another of his boats were detained by Vietnamese government vessels and he had to pay a ransom of US$30,000 to secure their return.

Tseng, who was also operating the boat at that time, said personnel on the Vietnamese vessels in 1994 took all their valuables, including his and crewmembers’ necklaces and watches, as well as fuel and fish bait.

In the incident on Tuesday, Tseng said the Lung Wang Li No. 97 was making its way home from Phuket Island in Thailand when a Vietnamese government vessel signaled with a searchlight for the boat to stop.

Tseng said he contacted Tsai by satellite phone, who told him that “the Vietnamese vessels were only after money” and that he should do exactly what the Vietnamese said to avoid being fired on.

He was instructed to follow the searchlight and sail toward Vietnam, Tseng said, adding that after about 20 minutes, the Vietnamese vessel sailed away.

The skipper said he then turned the boat around and sailed toward Taiwan, but was approached later by another vessel, which was accompanied by eight or nine smaller vessels.

The larger vessel instructed the Taiwanese boat to stop three times, but eventually let the vessel go, Tseng said.