Chinese embassy urges help for seafarers detained in Madagascar

General cargo ship, Flying, at the centre of the smuggling controversy. Credit: Marine Traffic/Lee Kaka

The Chinese embassy in Madagascar has urged a shipowner to resolve the situation of nine Chinese seafarers who are serving a five-year imprisonment for illegal entry.

The seafarers were part of the crew on the Flying, a 1997-built 6,223 dwt general cargo ship that was intercepted and detained by the Madagascan military in December 2018.

The Panama-flagged ship is said to have been involved in smuggling rare rosewood timber out of Madagascar.

Embassy officials visit the detained seafarers regularly and the seafarers had apparently given feedback that living conditions in their cell in Madagascar are poor.

IHS Markit’s data shows Flying as being owned by Lian Hua International Trade Co., Ltd, a Hong Kong-registered company. The ship and its crew members, comprising Ghanaians and Chinese nationals, have been detained since it was seized by the Madagascan military after a two-hour chase on 20 December 2018.

Madagascar has been attempting to put a stop to the illegal cutting and smuggling of rare rosewood timber.

IHS Markit’s data shows that Lian Hua’s address is care of Fuzhou Hailing Shipping, a ship operator based in Fuzhou in China’s Fujian province.

However, when Safety at Sea contacted Fuzhou Hailing Shipping, a woman who answered the phone said that the company no longer has anything to do with the vessel and would not disclose further information.