Search of Capsized Chinese Fishing Boat Ends as Divers Find 14 Bodies

capsized fishing vessel
Sri Lanka sent a team of divers which searched the capsized fishing vessel (Sri Lanka Navy)

Published May 24, 2023 1:45 PM by The Maritime Executive

Updated May 25 - The Chinese Ministry of Transport announced that the Lu Peng Yuan Yu 028 sank on May 24. The vessel is believed to be at a position about 5,000 meters below the surface in a distant part of the Indian Ocean. Prior to the vessel going down, they report that a total of seven bodies were recovered. Six fishing boats and a tugboat had remained on scene.


Chinese officials confirmed that they have scaled back the rescue operation for the crew of the capsized fishing vessel Lu Peng Yuan Yu 028 lost in the Indian Ocean on May 16. Based on their preliminary research, the Chinese Ministry of Transport said it believes there are no survivors. Divers from the Sri Lanka Navy had searched the interior of the vessel looking for possible air pockets with the Chinese officials saying they now believe while there is still air in the hull the living spaces are extremely limited.

The Sri Lanka Navy reports it made multiple dives entering the 229-foot hull of the Lu Peng Yuan Yu 028. They said meticulous searches were undertaken in very difficult conditions including zero visibility and water turbulence. Two bodies were recovered from the captain’s cabin and accommodation area, according to the Sri Lankans. Later searches they said had located 12 additional bodies of the crew in various compartments of the vessel. 

“Due to decomposition and the potential health hazards posed by operating in contaminated waters with limited protective gear, it was determined that retrieving those bodies would be exceedingly dangerous,” the Sri Lanka Navy said in its statement. They decided to work with the divers to map the vessel, marking the location of the bodies they had found and the routes available to move around inside the capsized vessel. For the safety of the divers, they did not attempt to recover the bodies.



Sri Lanka withdrew its team on May 22 with them heading back to base. This followed Australia which handed over the operation after four days to the Chinese. Australia said at the conclusion of its search that it believed the vessel was likely lost due to cyclonic weather conditions in the region.

The Ministry of Transport said that they would continue a 48-hour small-scale investigation. Seven vessels are reported to still be on the scene. They said the search had covered nearly 18,700 square nautical miles covering the possible drift area.

The searches located various bits of debris from the ship. They also recovered the lifeboat. The Ministry said however that no signs of survivors had been found.

The fishing vessel is reported to have had a crew of 39, including 17 Chinese, 17 Indonesians, and five Filipino crew. China had previously said that one of its warships had recovered two bodies before the reports of the 14 located by the divers from Sri Lanka.

Chinese officials said steps would be taken to improve the safety of its deep-sea fishing boats in the wake of the tragedy. In Indonesia, however, there are calls for an investigation. Reports indicate as many as 70,000 Indonesian crewmembers are believed to be working on Chinese fishing vessels. The labor department reports that 40 Indonesian seafarers died working on foreign fishing boats between November 2019 and March 2022.