In February, we posted about the strange disappearance of entire wrecks of Dutch and Japanese ships sunk off the coast of Indonesia during World War II. It was believed that grab dredgers might have literally picked the ships apart for the scrap value of their steel, bronze and copper.
Now, the Indonesian and Malaysian authorities have arrested the 8,000 gt Chinese grab dredger Chuan Hong 68 on charges of illegally scavenging wrecks, including from sunken warships as well as sunken commercial vessels. The Chuan Hong 68 had been arrested by the Indonesian authorities on April 20, but two days later the vessel escaped to Malaysian waters where she was detained again by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.
Maritime Executive reports a statement by Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti, she said, “I laud the Malaysian authorities, in this case the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, which has been cooperating with the Indonesian Navy, to seize MV Chuan Hong 68 in the Pengerang waters, East Johor,” said in a statement. She added that the practice of illegal salvage was unfortunately common in Indonesian waters, by foreign as well as domestic vessels.
The Jakarta Post reports that the Chinese government believes the Chuan Hong 68 was operating under charter to a Malaysian firm. “It has been engaged in offshore engineering in the waters specified by the Malaysian side according to the contract,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The dredger crew of 16 Chinese nationals, three Indians, and a Malaysian, are being held for questioning.