Indonesians, Filipinos among 39 missing after Chinese fishing boat capsizes

Tria Dianti and Dandy Koswaraputra
Indonesians, Filipinos among 39 missing after Chinese fishing boat capsizes This aerial photo shows fishing boats heading out to sea on the first day of the fishing season in Yangjiang, in China's southern Guangdong province, Aug. 16, 2022.

Seventeen Indonesians were among 39 people missing after a Chinese fishing vessel capsized in the Indian Ocean, Australian and Indonesian authorities said Wednesday.

The vessel, Lu Peng Yuan Yu 028, overturned on Tuesday about 2,500 nautical miles northwest of Australia, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

The authority said it was coordinating the response to an emergency beacon activated by the vessel, which also had 17 Chinese and five Filipinos on board.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah confirmed that 17 of its citizens were on the boat.

“We are coordinating with Australian search and rescue authorities and the Chinese government,“ he told BenarNews.

The Philippine Coast Guard Command Center said Wednesday it was in touch with the Chinese Embassy in Manila, as well as search and rescue teams near the last known location of the vessel.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for “all-out efforts“ to rescue the crew, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. China has deployed at least two vessels to assist while boats from Australia and other countries had also joined the search, Xinhua said.

None of the crew members had been found as of Wednesday morning.

The Indian Ocean stretches from the southern tip of Africa to western Australia and is one of the world’s most productive fishing grounds. It attracts vessels from across the globe, which are often crewed by migrant workers from Southeast Asian nations.

The upturned hull of the vessel was located by a merchant ship, Navios Taurus, in a position about 350 nautical miles south of where the beacon was detected, AMSA said. An Australian aircraft conducted a sector search of the area and departed without sighting any survivors or life rafts, it added.

Two other vessels, Msxt Athena and Lu Peng Yuan Yu 018, were conducting different types of searches around the capsized hull and the beacon location, respectively, the authority said.

The cause of the capsizing was not immediately clear. 

China has been expanding its distant-water fishing fleet in recent years, raising concerns about overfishing and environmental impacts.

More than 9,400 Indonesian crew members were working on foreign ships in 2020, according to the latest data from the foreign ministry. 

According to Destructive Fishing Watch Indonesia, a nonprofit, 40 Indonesian crew members died on foreign fishing vessels from November 2019 to March 2022. About 84% of the deaths occurred on Chinese vessels and 14% on Taiwanese ships, it said. 

The National Fishers Center, which is run by the NGO, received 93 complaints from 283 Indonesian and migrant crew members over the same period.  The top complaint was non-payment of salaries and/or 50% deduction of wages.


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