Fishing boat owners fear for safety of seized crews

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 May, 2012, 12:00am


The owners of three mainland fishing boats seized by North Koreans in the Yellow Sea last week say they are growing increasingly concerned about the safety of the 29 crew on board following the passing of Thursday's ransom deadline.

The North Korean kidnappers had demanded that the three owners each pay 300,000 yuan by Thursday for the release of the boats and their crew but no payment was made.

Sun Caihui, the owner of the Liaodan 23979, based in Dandong, Liaoning, said yesterday he worried ever since his boat's captain had failed to call him after Tuesday of last week, when it was snatched by the North Koreans along with the two other boats.

'I've just got information about my boat from the two other owners because my captain hasn't called me for the past 11 days,' Sun said yesterday, adding that there were 10 crew on his boat.

'My boat was equipped with a free Beidou satellite navigation system, offered by Dandong's Marine and Fishery Bureau for supervision purposes.'

Sun said the Beidou system could alert captains to a wide range of dangers, from typhoons to trespassing in other nations' waters.

'The system would alert captains when our boats crossed into other countries' territorial waters,' Sun said, adding that Beidou satellite records showed the three mainland vessels were in Chinese waters when they were seized by two North Korean gunboats.

Zhang Dechang, owner of the Liaodan 23536, said he had received calls from his captain, Han Qiang, on Wednesday of last week and on Sunday and Tuesday.

But he said he and the other owner had lost all contact with their sailors and the hostage-takers over the past three days.

'We are helpless now as the authorities just want us to wait, and only sent a township head to our homes on Thursday, telling us to be patient and trust our government,' Zhang said.

'But we can't wait because our sailors have no more than three days of food.'

Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei reiterated yesterday that China was keeping in close contact with North Korea over the kidnapping incident.