Vietnam stops illegal Chinese fishing activities during 17-day patrol

By Giang Chinh, Vuong Anh   April 4, 2016 | 06:05 pm GMT+7

The seizure of Chinese vessel 13056 near the Gulf of Tonkin on March 31 was the culmination of a 17-day surveillance patrol by Hai Phong's Border Defense Force around the Common Fishery Zone (CFZ) between Vietnam and China.

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Chinese vessel no.13056 was towed to Hai Phong for further investigation. Photo: Vietnam Border Defense

It was just one of many Chinese boats that Vietnamese coast guards caught during their patrol in Vietnam's territorial waters.

Besides the seizure of the Chinese oil tanker, Hai Phong’s Border Defense Force also drove away 112 Chinese fishing boats and issued warnings to 22 others for entering Vietnamese waters.

Pham Doan Duong, senior lieutenant colonel of Squadron 2, said that in the past, Vietnamese border guards used to capture and tow Chinese fishing boats that operated illegally in Vietnam’s territory.

However, in recent years, authorities in Hai Phong and other coastal provinces have been trying to drive these ships away instead to show Vietnam's goodwill and determination to resolve issues at sea in accordance with international law and to maintain relations with other countries in the region, according to Duong. Only deliberate and repeat offenders are issued with warnings.

In the case of the Chinese vessel, the decision to seize and tow the ship to the city for investigation after observing a number of unusual signs was considered a rare move by Vietnamese authorities.

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Chinese vessel no.13056 disguised as a fishing boat. Photo: Vietnam Border Defense

On March 14, Flotilla 1 of Squadron 2 (Hai Phong Border Defense Force) headed out to sea on a planned patrol around Zone 2 in the CFZ. Visibility at the time was severely reduced due to heavy fog coupled with light rain. 

At 3:20pm on March 31, the flotilla received information of the presence of an iron-hulled blue vessel numbered 13056 to the southwest of Bach Long Vi Island. The vessel was not flying a flag and had fishing nets hung across the deck with Chinese characters written on its bow.

Major Pham Dinh Thanh, deputy captain of Squadron 2, quickly assessed it was a Chinese vessel disguised as a fishing boat infringing on Vietnam’s sovereignty. He ordered the flotilla to pursue the vessel. Seeing the Vietnamese border guard closing in, the ship changed direction but was caught after a 10 minute chase.

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Captain Dam Thuy Duong of Chinese vessel No. 13056 told Vietnamese authorities the vessel was carrying 100,000 liters of fuel from Hainan Island, China, to Chinese ships fishing illegally in Hai Phong. Photo: Vietnam Border Defense

Vietnamese authorities discovered 100,000 liters of smuggled fuel on board, and neither the ship’s captain or its two crew members could provide registration papers or job certificates.

The captain of the Chinese ship told Vietnamese officials that all the fuel onboard was being transported from Hainan Island into Vietnamese territory to resupply Chinese fishing boats operating illegally in Vietnamese waters. The ship was unable to resupply any fishing boats before it was seized by border guards.

Authorities in Hai Phong are waiting for the investigation to be concluded and for further instructions from the Vietnam Border Defense Force to deal with vessel 13056.

The three Chinese crew members have admitted to the intrusion, Duong said.

“All property on board the ship has been recorded in detail and is in safe storage,” he said.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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