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Taiwanese fishing boat found overturned in Indian Ocean, crew still missing

15 Indonesians, 1 Taiwanese still missing, but could be in lifeboats

Lien Sheng Fa fishing vessel. (Fisheries Agency photo)

Lien Sheng Fa fishing vessel. (Fisheries Agency photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Taiwanese fishing vessel has been found capsized in the Indian Ocean, but its crew of 16 is still missing.

The overturned hull of Lien Sheng Fa (聯昇發), which is registered in Kaohsiung under CT4-2896 with the radio call sign BJ4896, was located by Mauritian authorities, reported Taiwan's Fisheries Agency on Feb. 26. However, after the vessel was searched by divers, no one was found inside and the lifeboats were missing.

Because it appears its Taiwanese captain and 15 Indonesian crewmembers may have taken the lifeboat, there is a possibility that they are alive at sea. Currently, Taiwan's Fisheries Agency is asking Mauritian authorities and nearby ships to continue to assist in the search and rescue efforts.

The 98-ton ship departed from Port Louis in Mauritius on Oct. 7, 2022 and was last reported to be operating about 490 nautical miles to the northeast of the port before radio contact was lost on Feb. 19. The Fisheries Agency received a report that it was missing on Feb. 23 and immediately requested ships in the area to assist with the search.

On Feb. 25, the agency received a report from a Taiwanese fishing boat that it had found what it suspected to be the overturned hull of the Lien Sheng Fa. Mauritian authorities then dispatched a team of divers to inspect the wreckage and confirmed that it was the Lien Sheng Fa.

Liberty Times cited a source in the fishing industry as saying that lifeboats are standard equipment and are generally equipped with simple rations and drinking water. The source said that most modern lifeboats are tied to a fixed point on the ship and must be manually untied by crew members to be deployed.

Such lifeboats are now generally designed to automatically inflate when they hit the water, said the source. For these reasons, there is a possibility that the crew survived the capsizing of the ship and were able to board the lifeboats.

The fishing boat was found 150 nautical miles from the last location it had broadcast from. This means that the search area is vast and time is running against the crew.