Chinese dredger detained in Malaysia for second time in two years

Chuan Hong 68
The Chinese grab dredger Chuan Hong 68 following its seizure off Malaysia for documentary irregularities, July 1, 2024Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency

Authorities in Malaysia have detained a Chinese-owned grab dredger for irregularities relating to its paperwork and the carriage of unregistered cargo. The detention of the grab dredger Chuan Hong 68 earlier this month is the vessel's second in the waters just off Malaysia in a little over a year, its first being a seizure in May 2023 for disturbing two historically significant shipwrecks from World War II.

In May 2023, the dredger's crew allegedly crushed the wrecks of the UK Royal Navy battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battlecruiser HMS Repulse in an attempt to salvage steel and aluminium from the vessels. Prince of Wales and Repulse lie at the bottom of the South China Sea off the coast of Johor after these were sunk by Japanese aircraft on December 10, 1941. Both ships are designated as protected war graves.

The latest seizure saw Chuan Hong 68 boarded by Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) inspectors off Perak state on the afternoon (local time) of July 1. The MMEA discovered that the dredger was carrying 60 LPG tanks that were unregistered and that its port clearance certificates and other documents reportedly contained irregularities.

The dredger and its crew are currently in Malaysian custody as part of an ongoing investigation. No updates have been provided over the last 12 months on the vessel's 2023 seizure, though reports suggest it continued to visit the same areas off Johor and often disappeared from AIS.

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