Wednesday, July 16, 2008
An illegal fishing ship whose captain is rumoured to have been murdered has thrown plans for the World Surfing Championship in Bali into chaos by running aground on the island's best surf break. Mystery surrounds the arrival of the Taiwanese vessel Ho Tsai Fa No. 18 off Padang Padang beach. Locals woke on Saturday to see the 30-metre-long vessel foundering on a reef, and reaped a barbecue bonanza by emptying its holds of tuna and shark. Police are still trying to find the boat's Indonesian crew and its Taiwanese captain, Tsai Wen-chen. Taiwanese authorities had requested Indonesia's assistance to locate the boat several weeks ago after it failed to return from a fishing trip off Papua. Three weeks ago it was spotted by another Taiwanese vessel but sped away when approached, prompting concern it had been taken over by a mutinous crew. Fishery officials said the Ho Tsai Fa's monitoring system had been turned off since May 13, and it had refused to answer radio messages.Several Balinese said the ship's dozen Indonesian crewmen had thrown their captain overboard and tried to return home, but had lost control of the vessel approaching Bali and fled after it foundered. In May, Greenpeace intercepted the ship illegally fishing with long lines in the Pacific. Central Java's coast guard chief, Sutrisna, said a search was under way for the crew members. He would not comment on allegations the captain had been murdered. "We have just found the ship - we cannot say or conclude anything till we investigate further," Commissioner Sutrisna said. Bali's coast guard chief, Oka Eswara, said attempts to refloat the vessel had been foiled by the weather and tides. "We have notified the Taiwanese embassy to assist, but we simply have to wait until the weather permits," he said. The accident threatens to disrupt the return of the World Surfing Championship to Bali after an 11-year absence. The event is scheduled to take place next month, but organisers have not announced it for security reasons. It is also disrupting the Rip Curl Cup, the Indonesian championship, scheduled to be held at Padang Padang this week.