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Sri Lanka Alerted Over Missing Taiwan Tuna Boat

A deep-sea fishing boat, dubbed ‘Yun Der Tsai’ and registered in the southern-most county of Pingtung, was missing in the Indian Ocean, near the seas between Sri Lanka and Thailand, and several boats were rushing to search for the missing boat, according to fishery department of the Pingtung county government.

Hsu Wen-chi, director of the fishery department, said that the Yun Der Tsai fishing boat departed for the Indian Ocean on October 20, 2008 to conduct deep-sea fishing operations, with 11 men aboard, including Captain Chen Ming-der and 10 Indonesian crewmen. Chen is the only Taiwanese on the boat.

Hsu said the 65-ton fishing boat sailed through Penang in Malaysia on April 4, and then moved to catch tuna and spear fish in the seas near Thailand on April 9-10. But on April 11, Chen’s family members started failing to reach Chen via satellite phone calls, and even satellite global positioning devices failed to locate Chen's boat.

Chen's family members asked for help from the Tongkang fishery radio station, stressing that as a very honest and kind man, it was impossible for Chen to quarrel with the Indonesian crewmen.

Judging from the unstable weather conditions in Thailand, it was possible that the automatic location reporting system of the boat had malfunctioned, making them unable to reach Chen, the family members continued.

But Hsu said the reporting system might be out of power or Chen’s boat might have been forced to sail for a certain area by others.

The Fisheries Agency under the Council of Agriculture has asked the Sri Lankan government to dispatch military vessels to search for the missing boat.