Grounded boat 'a crime scene'

China | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 8 Jan 2019

A grounded Chinese-flagged fisheries vessel in the Marshall Islands was yesterday being treated as the scene of a crime, authorities in the Pacific Ocean archipelago nation said.

The 94-meter vessel, which ran aground last week on a remote northern atoll, was not licensed to be in the country's waters.

"What they were doing in Marshall Islands' waters is still unanswered," Chief Secretary Ben Graham said, adding that the government was treating the vessel and its surrounds "as a crime scene."

The ship's 24-member crew arrived in the Marshalls' capital, Majuro, on Sunday after being rescued by a government patrol boat and a Chinese fishing vessel.

The grounded vessel, the Ou Ya Leng No 6, is a frozen fish carrier, and the operator is said to be a squid supplier to long-line vessels fishing in the region.

Sam Lanwi, deputy director of the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority, said the vessel was "not licensed to operate in the Marshall Islands exclusive economic zone."

Graham said investigators were interviewing the crew while other officials had gone to the scene of the incident to inspect the vessel and assess damage to the atoll.

"This is already an environmental disaster," Graham said, "but there may be additional impacts if it begins leaking fuel."

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