Chinese Warship Collides with Taiwanese Freighter

Damage to the Yutai No. 1 (Taiwan Coast Guard Administration)

Published Aug 2, 2019 10:00 PM by The Maritime Executive

A Chinese PLA Navy warship struck a Taiwanese coastal freighter in the Strait of Taiwan on Wednesday night, according to Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration. 

An unidentified Chinese warship collided with the Taiwanese-flagged freighter Yutai No. 1 (or Yu Tai No. 1) at a position 20 nm southeast of the island of Kinmen, an outlying Taiwanese-controlled territory just off the Chinese coast. A Coast Guard spokesperson told Bloomberg that the casualty occurred in an established shipping lane. No injuries were reported, but images released by the administration showed damage to the Yutai's starboard bow. 

Taiwan Coast Guard spokesman Chen Jian Wen told reporters that the Chinese warship asked the Yutai to go to the Chinese port of Xiamen for an investigation. Instead, the Yutai called for Taiwanese assistance, and Taiwan's coast guard sent two patrol boats to escort the vessel to a port of refuge in Kinmen. The unidentified Chinese warship returned to Xiamen without stopping, the Coast Guard said. 

The cause and intentionality of the casualty are as yet unknown, but the strait is a politically-fraught waterway: China claims Taiwan as part of its own territory under what it calls the "One China" policy, one of its top foreign policy priorities. Cross-strait tensions have been running high in recent weeks with both sides conducting large-scale military exercises.

On Monday, Taiwan's military launched Harpoon anti-ship missiles in a test for the first time in 18 years, striking a decommissioned landing craft in what was widely interpreted as a drill for a strike on a Chinese carrier. 

On the same day, China's People's Liberation Army announced a large scale drill in Fujian province, just across the strait. The Guangdong Maritime Bureau set up a shipping exclusion zone off the Dongshan peninsula for the full week ending August 2. 

The Yutai No. 1 is a coastal freighter with traditional yard-and-stay gear, and recent photos show her in use for the carriage of containerized cargo. Her last received AIS transmission showed her at the port of Kaohsiung Thursday night.