Collision sinks PLA boat, crew missing

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 June, 2006, 12:00am

At least 13 Chinese naval personnel were left missing after their military vessel collided with a Hong Kong cargo ship near Zhuhai , according to a state media report.

The accident happened last Thursday when the PLA patrol vessel collided with the 23,700-tonne cargo ship Pacific Adventurer owned by Swire Group subsidiary China Navigation.

China Navigation spokeswoman Maisie Shun Wah said no Pacific Adventurer crew members were injured. 'It happened last Thursday at 3am,' she said. 'All our 28 crew members and our ship were not harmed.'

She said the crew members and the ship were now in Guangzhou pending an investigation into the accident. A report by CCTV, however, said 13 naval personnel were missing after the collision and alleged the cargo ship had left the scene after the accident.

But Ms Shun denied this allegation. She said the captain of the cargo ship had only steered the ship away to check if his crew members were safe after the collision.

'I should clarify that our ship did not run away and it returned soon [after the collision],' she said. 'According to international safety regulations, we have to check our own ship to make sure we are not damaged because we can't provide assistance if we are damaged.'

The collision was the mainland's third military accident in the past three weeks. Observers said this was probably the most serious naval accident since a submarine disaster in 2003 which killed all 70 crew members on board.

The US-based Boxun news website reported the patrol vessel had a total of 63 personnel on board at the time of the accident, which happened near the Zhuhai section of the Pearl River.

Other reports identified the vessel as a missile patrol boat.

Antony Wong, president of the International Military Association in Macau, said he had heard that four naval personnel were killed in the collision and the vessel broke up and sank.

Calls to the Zhuhai maritime office were not answered yesterday and Guangdong maritime authorities said they would not comment.

'This was a blow to the PLA because it only has six such vessels and four are based in Hong Kong,' Mr Wong said.

He added he saw the vessel when it was commissioned in 1999 in Guangzhou and it was equipped with advanced weaponry.