Chinese ship that sank GemVer possibly part of maritime militia — report

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Chinese ship that sank GemVer possibly part of maritime militia � report
On June 9, 2019, Filipino fishing boat GemVer 1 sank after being rammed by a Chinese vessel near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea. The offending vessel abandoned the Filipino boat with 22 crew members, leaving them to the "mercy of the elemencts", the Department of National Defense earlier said.
The STAR / Walter Bollozos, file

MANILA, Philippines — Tracking the moves of the Chinese vessel that sank Philippine fishing boat GemVer 1 would suggest that it was more than just a commercial fishing ship, according to a think tank.

Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) reported that Yuemaobinyu 42212 turned off its Automatic Identification System (AIS) at the time of the collision with GemVer 1 near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea in June.

The signal of the Chinese ship disappeared on April 26 and was only detected again in June 13 as it entered Bohe Port in China's Guangdong province, a few days after the collision with the Philippine fishing boat.

"When ships 'go dark,' as Yuemaobinyu 42212 did after leaving port on April 26, it indicates that vessel operators may have switched off their transponders to avoid detection, which makes missing AIS signals an important clue when tracking illicit activities," AMTI said.

The report, however, noted that the Chinese vessel's AIS transponder often cannot communicate with satellite-based receivers.

Yuemaobinyu 42212 might not have been tracked between April 26 and June 13 when it went far from shore as its transponder was only designed for smaller vessels not transiting international waters.

The AMTI also looked into the records of Yuemaobinyu 42212 and found that it is registered to Bohe Port in Maoming City, Guangdong province. 

Based on Chinese public reports, a maritime militia unit has also been established in the Dianbai district of Maoming City.

"The unit operates from Bohe Port, where Yuemaobinyu 42212 is based, and where fishing vessels are conscripted for paramilitary exercises in preparation for maritime combat," the report read.

The think tank noted that the same vessel, which might be previously named Yuedianyu 42212, was previously used for government-backed fisheries research in the South China Sea.

As the Chinese ship supposedly changed its name, it also used a different Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number assigned to individual vessels.

"The seemingly renamed Yuemaobinyu 42212 is now using a different MMSI, but the months-long overlap is yet another potentially telling data point in the vessel’s history," AMTI reported.

"These facts do not prove that the 42212 is part of the maritime militia. They do, however, strongly suggest that it does not operate solely as a commercial fishing ship, which raises the question of whether the collision with the GemVer was intentional," it added.

Following the Recto Bank collision, the Chinese vessel has stopped broadcasting its AIS shortly after reentering Bohe Port in June 14. It was again detected in September 22 from outside the Shidao port in China's Shandong Peninsula.

While the owner of the Chinese vessel had apologized in August, the 22 Filipino fishermen affected by the incident have yet to be compensated.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Filipino fishermen should file an insurance claim for them to be properly compensated.

"You have to file an insurance claim and then let the process proceed. There are protocols. The insurance company will not just give them compensation, there has to be a claim," Panelo said in September.

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: June 8, 2022 - 2:34pm

Updates in the aftermath of the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a suspected Chinese trawler.

June 8, 2022 - 2:34pm

Justice Undersecretary Adrian Sugay says fishermen and boat owner of F/BGem-Ver, the boat sunk by a Chinese vessel and abandoned at sea in 2019, received their P6 million compensation on May 16.

April 28, 2022 - 2:18pm

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra confirms "there has been a final settlement of the damage claims of the Gem-Ver fishermen against the owners of the Chinese vessel." — Kristine Joy Patag

May 24, 2021 - 3:54pm

The Philippines and China discussed the issue of compensation for the owner and crew of F/B Gem-Ver 1 — a fishing boat that was damaged and then sank in 2019 after an allision with a Chinese fishing vessel in the Recto Bank area of the West Philippine Sea — last week, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra says.

"The [Department of Justice] will lead a small group (DOJ, [Foreign Affairs], [Agriculture/Bureau of Fisheries and Aquartic Resources) to put a close to this festering issue," he says, adding they will meet with their Chinese counterparts on June 2 and 7.

 "As far as the Filipino fishermen are concerned, it is important that they recover fully their expenses for the boat repair and the income they lost while the boat was under repair," he also says.

September 24, 2019 - 9:43am

A philanthropist from Shanghai has turned over a commercial fishing vessel to replace F/B Gem-Ver 1, which was damaged and sank in the the Recto Bank allision in June, columnist and special envoy Ramon Tulfo says in a press release. 

"The fishing boat, christened as F/B Pengyou, replaced the F/B Gem-Ver 1 that was sunk at Recto Bank in the South China Sea," the Office of the Special Envoy for Public Diplomacy to China says. Recto Bank is part of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

Tulfo says Xue Chengbuao, a tycoon from Shanghai, turned over the the boat in a ceremony in San Jose, Mindoro Occidental on Sunday.

"F/B Pengyou is 17 meters long and 1.6 meters wide. It weighs 10.6 tons and has a Fuso engine with 160 hp," Tulfo's office also says.

"Pengyou" is Mandarin Chinese for friend.

July 8, 2019 - 1:04pm

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo says there is no contradiction in the Philippine Coast Guard's report that the June 9 Recto Bank incident is a “very serious maritime casualty” and President Rodrigo Duterte’s earlier statement that the incident was a "little maritime incident."

"It's serious in the sense that when you leave our countrymen there then that's a serious matter," Panelo explains, adding that even if it is a serious matter "you cannot blow that and make it into an international crisis."

He adds the Philippines will "definitely" seek accountability from China over the allision that sank F/B Gem-Ver 1.

He says China will be the one to decide on how it should deal with or make accountable the crew of the Chinese vessel that left 22 Filipino fishermen after the allision.

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