Smugglers caught because they got their Chinese characters the wrong way round

Language blunder gives sugar carriers a bitter lesson after it attracts coastguards’ suspicions

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 September, 2017, 2:19pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 September, 2017, 2:19pm

A foreign ship was caught with smuggled cargo last week because the crew did not know Chinese and put the wrong characters on the front of the vessel.

The two characters were supposed to spell out the name of China’s oil production capital Daqing, Modern Express Daily reported on Tuesday.

But they raised the eyebrows of Chinese coastguards because they were painted the other way round. The paint was much fresher than that on the rest of the ship, which was docking at the Yancheng harbour on Thursday, according to the report.

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The crew were mostly foreigners, although the coastguard did not disclose their nationality.

Officers found 1,300 tonnes of sugar in the cargo bay, held in plastic bags with wording that suggested the origin of production was in Thailand.

The captain could not provide any customs documents for the cargo.

The Yancheng coast guard said the ship was registered in Panama. It picked up the sugar from another ship between China and South Korea in the Yellow Sea.

The crew lowered the Panamanian flag and painted the Chinese characters on the bow, because Chinese authorities were less likely to inspect domestic ships.

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But the painters did not speak Chinese and held the template in the wrong direction, getting the characters back-to-front.

The crew have been arrested and charged with smuggling.