More Illegal Wreck Salvaging — Japanese WWII Shipwrecks off Borneo

Remains of Rice Bowl Wreck

Last November, we posted about the wrecks of three Dutch World War IIship wrecks in the Java Sea that have apparently vanished.   The three ships; the HNLMS De Ruyter, HNLMS Java and HNLMS Kortenaer;  had been in waters 70 meters deep, 60 miles off the Indonesian coast.  Now, two of the three wrecks have disappeared, while a significant portion of the third is missing. Illegal scrappers operating grabs from barges are considered to be the likely culprits.

Now, the Guardian reports that the wrecks of three Japanese transport ships sunk off Borneo during World War II have been largely destroyed by a Chinese crane ship engaging in illegal scrapping. The ships; Kokusei Maru, Higane Maru and Hiyori Maru; were all within a kilometer of each other and have been popular dive sites in Malaysia’s Sabah state. 

The Guardian reports: Scuba diver Monica Chin said local fishermen called her late last month to say a large Chinese vessel with workers on board was using a crane to tear apart the Japanese ships.

Photos and video footage taken by the fisherman and passed to the Guardian show a large ship with a giant crane for hoisting underwater material. Ship-tracking websites describe the vessel as a “grab dredger”.

The looting of Australian, American, British, Dutch and Japanese warships for scrap metal in south-east Asian seas has caused outrage, with veterans and governments arguing that the vessels must be preserved as underwater war graves for sailors.

Locally, the three wrecks are known as Rice Bowl Wreck – named after its cargo of hundreds of bowls – Upside Down Wreck and Usukan Wreck. Now, two of the three ships are said to be effectively gone while the third, the Rice Bowl Wreck, was described as “heap of metal piled up into a ball”.  The video below shows diving on the Rice Bowl Wreck before it was destroyed by the scrappers.

Scuba Diving Malaysia HD – Usukan Bay Rice Bowl Wreck with Borneo Dream

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4 Responses to More Illegal Wreck Salvaging — Japanese WWII Shipwrecks off Borneo

  1. Willy says:

    While I am not surprised that some one is salvaging wrecks. I dont think they will stop any time soon either. The only time they will be stopping is when they haul up some of that live ordinance and it goes bang sending everything back to the bottom of the ocean.

  2. Willy says:

    While I am not surprised there are salvagers out there cleaning the ocean of our past conflicts. I dont see really why this really is a problem. Granted many of these sites offered a habitation for fish and ocean flora. As well as opportunities to go diving. To me it is trash that is littering the ocean and some one sees a way to clean it up.

    The scary part for them is when they bring up military ordinance. The ordinance that went don was designed to destroy. The actions by these salvagers may pose a threat to others when they bring military grade ordinance up that could be live ammunitions.

  3. cammosutra says:

    I can’t say I am surprised it was a Chinese ship was my first reaction. But then again, there are two Chinas, mainland and Taiwan.

    Whoever did it, grave robbery stinks.

  4. Rick Spilman says:

    The ships are not trash. They are war graves.