Two Taiwanese Distant-Water Fishing Crews Go Missing in One Week

Lien Sheng Fa
Lien Sheng Fa (file image courtesy Taiwan Fisheries Agency)

Published Feb 27, 2023 7:35 PM by The Maritime Executive

Taiwan's fishing community has lost two distant-water crews in a week, one off Mauritius and the other off Palau. 

On February 18, the Pingtung-based tuna longliner Sheng Feng 128 ceased transmitting AIS and VMS at a position about 400 nm to the northwest of Palau's Malakal Island. Taiwan called for assistance from nearby coastal states, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard, which deployed long-range search aircraft to assist. Five nearby Taiwanese fishing vessels joined in as well. 

As of Monday, the Sheng Feng 128 has not been found. The government of the Philippines announced that its coast guard will be joining the search this week. Manila has deployed a Cessna patrol plane, and its coast guard bases on the eastern side of the archipelago will conduct a search in case the fishing vessel has drifted into Philippine waters. Taiwan has also dispatched two of its own coast guard vessels to assist the search. 

On February 23, the Kaohsiung-based fishing vessel Lien Sheng Fa lost contact in the Indian Ocean some 225 nm northeast of Rodrigues, an island at the eastern edge of Mauritius' territory. The named storm Cyclone Freddy was passing through the same region at the time. 

Taiwanese authorities contacted nearby fishing vessels to launch a search, and they asked for help from the Mauritius National Search and Rescue Center as well. The Mauritian coast guard vessel CGS Barracuda eventually found the upturned hull of the Lien Sheng Fa, and the crew sent down a dive team to inspect the wreck on Sunday. The vessel's identity was confirmed, but her Taiwanese captain and 15 Indonesian crewmembers remain missing.