Sinking freighter off Philippines not Taiwan-registered: official

2018/01/08 20:48:21 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Sinking freighter off Philippines not Taiwan-registered: official

Manila, Jan. 8 (CNA) A cargo ship that ran aground in Philippine waters last week and was allegedly involved in cocaine smuggling was not registered in Taiwan, Taiwan's representative to the Philippines said Monday in rebutting reports by media in the country.

Gary Song-huann Lin (林松煥) said at a press conference that the "Jin Ming 16" was not a Taiwanese ship, and in fact was registered in Togo in 2000, based on Philippine authorities' investigation of the ship's documents, which had expired.

"The cocaine did not come from Taiwan and the ship is not a Taiwanese ship," Lin said.

The freighter ran aground in strong winds and high waves on Jan. 2 in waters about 300 meters off the coast of Northern Samar. There were nine people on board -- six Chinese, two Hong Kongers and one Taiwanese.

On Jan. 3, Philippine fishermen discovered 24 kilograms of cocaine in waters about 45-minutes in sailing time from the "Jin Ming 16," prompting Philippine police to speculate that the drugs might have something to do with the freighter, citing the account of a crew man.

Philippine media reported the drugs came from the "Taiwanese ship," which Lin said has tarnished Taiwan's image.

The freighter was reported as a Taiwanese cargo ship because the Chinese captain provided documents showing it was Taiwan-registered, but those documents were "actually faked and forged by him," Lin said.

After checking with authorities in Taiwan, Lin's office found that the ship is not registered in Taiwan and there is no record of it there.

Lin also stressed that the ship originated in Hainan Island, not Taiwan.

"This information is fully confirmed by the ship's Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) data and also admitted by the ship's captain and crew," Lin said, insisting that the ship had nothing to do with Taiwan.

The diplomat also took issue with a policeman who was cited in a media report on Jan. 7 as saying that a crew member admitted that the recovered cocaine came from the ship.

"In fact, the crew member denied the drugs were from their ship," Lin said.

Togo is often used by foreign owners to register their merchant ships as a "flag of convenience" so that their vessels avoid tough regulations and rising labor costs.

The West African country is among the most notorious flags of convenience, being ranked as one of 11 black-listed countries on the "White, Grey and Black (WGB) List" issued by the Paris MoU Committee in mid-2017, indicating higher risk.

(By Emerson Lim and Evelyn Kao)
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