customs media release

Customs boards 'ghost ship' in Gulf of Carpentaria - Monday, 27th March 2006

Customs boards ghost ship in Gulf of CarpentariaOfficers from the Australian Customs Vessel (ACV) Storm Bay have boarded an abandoned tanker in the Gulf of Carpentaria this morning around 180km south-west of Weipa.

There is no one on board the vessel, which is estimated to be 80m in length and is trailing a broken tow-rope from its bow.

It has been identified by the boarding party as the Jian Seng but its port of registry and nationality is unknown.

There is no suggestion there has been anyone on board recently, or that the vessel has been used in any people smuggling activity. There is no indication the crew left the vessel in distress.

A large quantity of rice was found on board and Customs officers believe the vessel may have been used to resupply fishing boats with food and fuel in waters outside Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone.

The vessel has been disabled for some time. Based on a search of the Jian Seng the Customs boarding team believes the vessel was under tow when it broke free and was abandoned before drifting into Australian waters.

The vessel's engines are inoperable and it is still drifting slowly southwards.

It was spotted yesterday (Friday) by a Coastwatch surveillance aircraft. The aircraft was unable to establish radio communication and the Storm Bay was asked to investigate.

While Customs has no further interest in the vessel, it is considered a navigation hazard. The Storm Bay is monitoring the vessel's drift and Customs is liaising with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority on appropriate action to secure the vessel.

The vessel is the second 'ghost ship' to appear in Australian waters in recent years. The Taiwanese fishing vessel High Aim 6 was found drifting off the NW coast of Western Australia in January 2003. A subsequent search and investigation found no trace of the crew and it was later sunk as an artificial reef off Broome.

Media note:
Images of the abandoned ship are available in the image gallery.

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For further details contact Corporate Communication (02) 6275 6793 (24hrs).


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http://www.customs.gov.au/site/page.cfm?c=6882 modified: 9:20 AM 27 Mar 2006