A replica of an ancient Chinese junk sank in Taiwanese waters just one step away from accomplishing a trans-Pacific voyage meant to highlight the sophisticated skills of China's ancient mariners. The Princess Taiping, built in 2007 from Ming dynasty (1368-1644) models and believed to be the only ocean-going Chinese junk before the accident, was cut in two by a bigger boat at about 1.30am yesterday, according to an organiser of the mission. The ship's 11 crew members were rescued around 6am, said Mark Peng Hong-grong, executive director of the Chinese Maritime Development Society. One had suffered a serious neck injury. The accident took place 30 nautical miles from Suao, a small coastal town in the southern part of Taiwan's Yilan county. The ship was sailing back from Okinawa when it was rammed by what Mr Peng said was either a cargo or oil vessel. 'The two ships were quite close to each other. Our captain had given signals to the other ship, but it suddenly changed its direction and rammed into our junk,' he said. Put to sea last summer, the Hong Kong-registered junk had sailed across the Pacific Ocean, visiting seven ports in the United States and Asia. The year-long voyage was to demonstrate that Chinese seafarers had the techniques and skills to make a round trip between China and the Americas centuries before Magellan and Columbus. 'China has the longest history of maritime exploration. Its achievements can't be matched by other western powers,' Mr Peng said. He said it was a pity that the accident happened just as the Princess Taiping was a step away from finishing the journey. 'They could already see the lights on the shore before they were hit by the ship. But after all, it had finished the main parts of its journey, so I would say it had accomplished its mission.' Another aim of the mission was to protect the disappearing techniques of Chinese junk-building, Mr Peng said. The 16.4-metre-long junk was powered by cotton sails on three masts and featured Ming dynasty-style colour drawings on its stern. It was built by aged shipwrights in Fujian , who used axes and chisels. Mr Peng said the ancient ship-building skills were fast disappearing because of a lack of support. 'If you build another ship in 10 years' time, it's going to be 100 or 1,000 times more difficult than when we did it,' he said, adding that not more than seven skilled junk-builders remained in Fujian. The society was hoping authorities could retrieve the remains of the Princess Taiping, Mr Peng said.