Legal issues delay salvage of sunken vessel

Water hazard: Fishing vessel Xin Yi Yi lying on its side off Permatang Damar Laut.

GEORGE TOWN: The Marine Department will conduct its own salvaging works on a sunken Hong Kong vessel in the shallows off Permatang Damar Laut, south of Penang island.

Its corporate unit assistant information officer Muhammad Zulhafeez Shaidin said works were expected to begin early next year to salvage Xin Yi Yi which has been lying on the seabed half-submerged for more than 16 months.

He said the owners had abandoned the 43m-vessel after failing to bring it up in June this year.

He said the department had revoked the RM1.6mil bond from the owners and fined the company RM250,000 for failing to prove valid insurance documents.

“We have forfeited all their rights when they did not salvage the vessel within the stipulated period.

“We’ll conduct the salvaging works as the owners failed to reply to our final notice served in mid-November. The 14-day period is up and we have not heard from them.

“Earlier, the owners sent us a letter, saying they wanted the salvaged parts by citing some international maritime law.

“But we told them it was not possible as the vessel was in Malaysian waters, ” he said.

Muhammad Zulhafeez said the department has placed marker buoys at the site of the sunken vessels to warn boats plying the area.

Penang Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said it should not have taken 16 months to resolve the issue.

“While we understand there was a legal dispute, the department should have moved fast in salvaging the vessel and removing it from the seabed, ” he said.

On July 26 last year, Xin Yi Yi’s captain Shek Shing Hei told police after being rescued that he could not see the light of the warning buoy and crashed his vessel into the remains of a shipwreck nicknamed “Kapal Simen”.

The captain and his crew were coming here to buy 30 tonnes of live fish such as groupers. They were rescued by passing fishermen after the accident.

The owners then commissioned a team of salvagers, whose plan was to seal the lower decks, pump the water out and then use gigantic airbags to raise the ship off the seabed and tow it to deeper waters so that she could right herself.

But the 43.6m-long Xin Yi Yi would not budge.

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