Taiwanese officials question bulker owner over ‘hit-and-run collision’

Sasebo Glory. Credit: Victoria Steamship

The owners of a Cyprus-flagged Kamsarmax bulk carrier are speaking to Taiwanese officials about the vessel’s alleged involvement in a suspected hit-and-run collision with a Taiwanese fishing trawler Chuan Yi Tsai No. 1, the agent confirmed to Safety at Sea (SAS). The vessel was found broken in two on 7 August 2019, near the disputed Diaoyu Islands (Senkaku) claimed by China, Japan, and Taiwan. The Taiwanese captain of the trawler and five Indonesian crew members remain missing.

According to a notice issued by Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency, the Taiwan Coast Guard stated that Chuan Yi Tsai No. 1 disappeared from radar screens about 01:00 local time on 3 August 2019. The trawler did not make any distress calls and attempts to reconnect with the crew failed. Its last known location was 18.5 n miles off Toucheng, Yilan County.

The Fisheries Agency said, “At the time, a Cyprus-flagged cargo vessel was passing through the area, and may have collided with the trawler. We are requesting the Maritime Port Bureau’s help to determine the said cargo ship’s next port of call, and for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to investigate this vessel at the next port of call, and to go through the appropriate channels to investigate the shipowner and agent, to clarify any doubts.”

Taiwanese media mentioned reports that the 2016-built 85,000 dwt Sasebo Glory was possibly near Chuan Yi Tsai No. 1 around the time the trawler met with trouble.

“The owners are in discussions with the Taiwanese embassy in Greece. We’re not sure why Sasebo Glory was mentioned,” a staff member of Victoria Steamship, the London-based agent of Sasebo Glory, told SAS.

The bulk carrier’s group owner is Greek company Third Millenium Shipping and its registered owner is Greek-based Ionic Investment Corp, according to IHS Markit data. The Victoria Steamship staff member was unable to say if Sasebo Glory was in Taiwanese waters at the time Chuan Yi Tsai No. 1 met with trouble.

IHS Markit data shows that Sasebo Glory is currently on the way to San Lorenzo, Argentina, with estimated arrival on 10 September. Prior to this, the data placed Sasebo Glory at Changjiangkou, China, departing on 1 August.

Chuan Yi Tsai No. 1 had left Wushi Harbor in Yilan, on 2 August, heading for waters off the east coast of Taiwan. However, the vessel failed to return to its origin as scheduled on 4 August.

The owner contacted Taiwan Coast Guard, which with its Japanese counterparts, sent patrol vessels and helicopters to search for the missing trawler.

About 07:00 local time on 7 August 2019, the Japanese Coast Guard spotted the wreckage, which was identified by a nearby floating life jacket that bore the words “Yong Zhai Fu”, the old name of the vessel.