Taiwanese cargo ship in alleged fender-bender with Chinese naval ship

Credit: Taiwan Coast Guard

Cross strait tensions between China and Taiwan are on the rise after a Chinese naval vessel allegedly came into contact with a Taiwanese cargo ship in the Taiwan Strait. The incident is said to have happened around 9 pm local time on 31 July 2019.

The cargo ship You Tai No 1 that transports containers and general cargos between the Taiwanese ports of Kinmen and Kaohsiung, was sailing from Liaoluo to Kaohsiung when the alleged incident happened about 15 n miles south of Liaoluo.

While there has been no official confirmation if the other vessel was indeed from the Chinese navy, sources told the Taiwanese media that the crew on the Taiwanese ship initially thought that it was a Chinese Coast Guard patrol vessel. However, the vessel reportedly appeared to be too big to be a conventional coastguard patrol vessel.

Jui Pang Shipping, owner of the You Tai No 1, said that after the incident, the officers on the Chinese naval vessel reportedly contacted the captain of the Taiwanese vessel, requesting the cargo ship to sail with the naval vessel to the nearby Chinese port of Xiamen, which is across the Taiwan Strait in order for the matter to have been dealt with. The captain of You Tai No 1 declined the request and instead sought help from the Taiwan Coast Guard.

Considering that the incident happened amid deteriorating diplomatic relations between Taiwan and China, the coastguard deployed two vessels, while planning a strategy for negotiations, if necessary. One of the vessels spotted the Chinese naval ship sailing towards Xiamen and radioed the latter, requesting that it stop for inspections.

The officer on the Chinese naval ship is said to have claimed that the vessel sustained damage to its aft, and had to go to Xiamen for repairs, before cutting off contact.

No one was injured in the incident and there was only minimal damage to You Tai No 1.

The other coastguard vessel escorted You Tai No 1 back to Liaoluo and the Maritime Port Bureau is investigating the incident.

Regarded by China as a renegade province, Taiwan has more or less functioned as an autonomous state since Kuomintang-led Chinese nationalists fled there in 1949, after being defeated by the Communists in the Chinese Civil War.

Relations between Taiwan and China have been fractious, but tensions have been rising since Tsai Ing-wen, from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, was elected President in May 2016.

On the day of the incident involving You Tai No 1, China banned its citizens from making solo trips to Taiwan, citing poor cross-strait relations.