Missing Taiwanese vessel found, no sign of skipper

Missing Taiwanese vessel found, no sign of skipper

TAIPEI - A Taiwanese fishing boat that went missing on June 19 was found by an Indonesian military vessel yesterday morning, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday.

However, Indonesian authorities said they did not find the Taiwanese skipper that was supposed to be on board the vessel, MOFA spokeswoman Anna Kao said yesterday.

Indonesian military spokesmen said they were currently questioning the 12 Indonesian crewmen aboard the vessel in an attempt to find the whereabouts of the ship's captain, she noted.

Registered in Donggang in Southern Taiwan's Pingtung County, the vessel, named "Kuo-jung No. 333," set out from Palau for the Solomon Islands on June 12. It was skippered by Chen Chih-wen and crewed by 12 Indonesians.

The boat's owner, Lin Chin-his, placed several satellite phone calls to Chen on June 19 but no one answered, leading Lin to suspect that his boat had been hijacked.

According to Chen's family, the boat was last pinpointed off the northern coast of the eastern Indonesian province of West Papua before it lost contact with Lin.

Chen's family said the boat's vessel monitoring system (VMS) has been turned off since 7 pm last Friday, leaving its current position untraceable.

Kao yesterday said the Indonesian military found the Taiwanese vessel in seas near Bali yesterday morning. Taiwan's representative office in Indonesia has dispatched its staff to acquire more details on the case from Indonesia authorities that are responsible for the investigation, the MOFA spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, Chen's family in Pingtung yesterday said they have been informed that Chen may have gone overboard.

Chen's family said Chen has been a skipper for years and he could not have gone overboard by himself, hinting that the Indonesian crewmen could be responsible for his disappearance.

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