TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — After catching a Chinese vessel dredging sand off of Taiwan's Matsu Islands, Coast Guard Administration (CGA) officials arrested its crew and forced them to return the material to Taiwan's territorial waters.
On Oct. 3, the CGA caught a 6,000-ton Chinese sand-dredging vessel that had illegally crossed into the waters off Matsu's Nangan Township. As CGA officers suspected the ship had been dredging sand and gravel nearby, they seized the vessel, arrested all its crew members, and forced them to return the ship's haul to the sea.
The Matsu Branch of the CGA stated that at 11 p.m. on Oct. 3, it received a report that a suspicious ship had entered restricted waters off Nangan Township, reported CNA. It dispatched three patrol cutters to the scene, and they soon encountered a ship with no marked name dredging sand and gravel 2.1 nautical miles (3.8 kilometers) off the coast of Nangan.
Coast Guard officers boarding dredger. (CGA photo)
The 10 CGA officers then boarded the dredging ship and arrested all 11 Chinese men on board. At 1 a.m. on Oct. 4, the CGA cutters escorted that unnamed ship to Nangan's Fu'ao Harbor, and by 8 a.m. that morning, Lienchang County Environmental Resources Bureau officials had arrived to ensure proper epidemic prevention measures were being taken against the Wuhan Coronavirus (COVID-19) and African swine fever.
At 11 a.m., the Chinese crew was directed to take their ship to a designated area off the coast of Matsu and at 11:45 were ordered to begin returning the 1,800 tons of sand and gravel they had siphoned. After the operation was completed, the ship was escorted back to Fu'ao Harbor and the crew members were transferred to the Lien Chiang District Prosecutor's Office to be investigated.
The CGA said it will not be lenient with any Chinese vessels trying to carry out illegal fishing or dredging operations in Taiwan's territorial waters. Fishermen and local residents are asked to report any such illegal operations that they witness by calling the 118 Coast Guard hotline; the CGA will immediately dispatch personnel to the scene to deal with the intruding ships.