Cross-Strait tension as Taiwan coastguard detain Chinese tanker

Taiwanese island of Little Kinmen overlooking the Taiwan Strait and the Chinese city of Xamen. Credit: Carl Court/Getty Images

A Chinese oil tanker collided with Taiwan coastguard patrol vessel in the Taiwan Strait, after the former vessel refused demands to stop for an inspection. Allegedly, the tanker attempted to flee, but the coastguard personnel, in hot pursuit, jumped onto the vessel and apprehended all seven of its crew.

The incident happened in the morning of 30 June 2019, when the Taiwan coastguard got wind that the 300 gt tanker, whose name was not released, had sailed into waters off Tunghsiao in Miaoli county, adjacent to Taichung in the south. Fishermen in the area had apparently alerted the coastguard to the presence of the Chinese tanker.

The coastguard deployed a patrol vessel to stop the tanker for an inspection but, allegedly, the tanker ignored the command and zigzagged. During the confrontation, the tanker was said to have collided with the 100 gt patrol vessel no fewer than four times.

Undaunted, the coastguard personnel continued to give chase, and swung into action when their vessel neared the tanker. Dramatic video footage shows four coastguard personnel leaping onto the Chinese tanker to apprehend the latter’s crew, comprising the captain and six other seafarers.

Speaking at a press conference, Taichung Coast Guard Chief Ou Ling-chia said, “Under questioning, the tanker captain had admitted to encroaching into local waters.”

The cost of repairing the damage to the patrol vessel is estimated at TWD70,000 (USD2,255) and the coast guard is considering whether to seek compensation from the tanker’s owner or insurers.

Ever since the Nationalists fled to Taiwan in 1949, after their defeat by the Communists in the Chinese Civil War, the island has been regarded by China as a renegade province. This has resulted in tense relations between Taiwan and China, which has threatened military action if the former declares independence.