Report: Chinese trawler could have avoided collision

MANILA: The crew of a Chinese trawler that sank a Philippine fishing boat last month could have avoided a collision but failed to do so, and then fled instead of plucking the boat’s men out of the water, a state-appointed probe team has concluded.

A 14-page report sent to President Rodrigo Duterte by the Philippine Coast Guard and the Maritime Industry Authority confirmed accounts that at midnight on June 9, the Yuemaobinyu 42212, a steel-hulled trawler from Guangdong province, struck the stern of the Gem-Ver, a wooden outrigger fishing boat that had dropped anchor in disputed waters in the South China Sea. The Gem-Ver sank.

The Yuemaobinyu stopped, and then moved just 50m from the Gem-Ver. But instead of rescuing the boat’s crew of 22 men, it sailed on.

A Vietnamese fishing boat later rescued the crew and handed them over to a Philippine navy ship.

The report said the crew of the Yuemaobinyu were “found to have failed to take appropriate action to avoid the risk of (a) collision and to render assistance to a vessel in distress”.

The Gem-Ver had two lights on, including a white flashing bulb in the stern, and visibility was “slightly clear”, it said. The weather was “fair” and the sky was clear.

These suggested that the Yuemaobinyu’s lookouts would have seen the Gem-Ver, and could have taken steps to steer their ship away from the boat.

The report said “by manoeuvring back and stopping approximately 50m away from the Gem-Ver, with her fishing lights open, the other vessel can be considered to have direct knowledge of the distress situation”.

By leaving instead of rendering help, the Yuemaobinyu violated maritime laws.

But the report did not say if the sinking was intentional, and declined to hold the Chinese liable. It recommended that Chinese officials conduct their own investigation. — The Straits Times/Asia News Network