Chinese fishing vessel capsizes in Indian Ocean, crew of 39 missing
By Poornima Weerasekara
BEIJING – A Chinese fishing vessel has capsized in the central Indian Ocean, with its crew of 17 Chinese, 17 Indonesian and five Filipino sailors missing, state media reported Wednesday (17).
A multinational search and rescue operation was under way to locate the mariners, and China’s premier called on authorities to strengthen safety procedures for fishing operations at sea.
The missing vessel, named Lu Peng Yuan Yu 028, capsized at about 3:00 a.m. Beijing time on Tuesday (16) (1900 GMT Monday).
President Xi Jinping ordered the coordinated search, CCTV said, but “so far, no missing persons have been found”.
Teams from around the region are now at the scene and China has deployed two commercial vessels – the Lu Peng Yuan Yu 018 and Yuan Fu Hai – to help in the operation.
“It is necessary to further strengthen the safety management of fishing vessels at sea and implement preventive measures to ensure the safety of maritime transportation,” Premier Li Qiang said, urging relevant ministries to strengthen oversight of the fishing sector.
Beijing’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched an “emergency mechanism for consular protection” involving embassies and consulates in Australia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Indonesia, the Philippines and other countries, according to CCTV.
The capsized vessel was owned by Penglai Jinglu Fishery Co., one of China’s major state-run fishing companies.
It was authorized to fish for neon flying squid and Pacific saury, according to data from the North Pacific Fishing Commission.
It left Cape Town on May 5, en route to Busan, according to the MarineTraffic tracking website, which last located the vessel on May 10 to the southeast of Reunion, a tiny French island in the Indian Ocean.
Penglai Jinglu Fishery also runs squid and tuna fishing operations in international waters including the Indian Ocean and waters surrounding Latin America.
The company declined to answer AFP questions about the incident.
China has the world’s largest distant-water fishing fleet, though estimates of its size vary widely.
In 2017, Beijing pledged the fleet would be capped at 3,000 vessels, but a 2020 report from United Kingdom-based think tank Overseas Development Institute placed its size at just under 17,000.
The decision followed an international backlash against overfishing by Chinese vessels.
As stocks at home deplete, Chinese fishermen have increasingly sailed further afield and become entangled in a growing number of maritime disputes and accidents.
In 2019, the Philippines accused a Chinese vessel of ramming a Philippine boat in the disputed South China Sea, causing it to sink and putting the lives of nearly a dozen crew members at risk.
AFP has contacted the foreign ministries in China and the Philippines for updates on casualties.
– Agence France-Presse