'Zhonhai 68' dredger seized by PCG 'not a Chinese ship' — embassy

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
'Zhonhai 68' dredger seized by PCG 'not a Chinese ship' � embassy
Photo shows Philippine Coast Guard personnel aboard an illegal and unauthorized ship, which they identified as a Chinese-type dredging vessel, in the vicinity of Orion Point, Bataan on January 27, 2021.
Released / Philippine Coast Guard

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 9:30 a.m., February 4) — China's embassy in the Philippines on Wednesday disputed reports that a dredger seized by the Philippine Coast Guard last week is a Chinese ship.

The Chinese Embassy issued the statement in response to reports of the apprehension and a resolution at the House of Representatives seeking an inquiry into illegal dredging in the Philippines.

"Initial investigation on the identity of MV Zhonhai 68 by relevant Chinese authorities has shown that the ship is not registered in China and not a Chinese ship," the Chinese Embassy said in a Facebook post. "Information from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) shows the ship with an IMO number of 8692665, is under the flag of Sierra Leone."

"It is also noted that there was no Chinese national on the dredging ship when it was found," it added, referencing the two Cambodian nationals aboard the ship who are now in Coast Guard custody.

The PCG in a statement on the incident published on January 28 identified the ship as "an illegal and unauthorized Chinese dredger type vessel" that was spotted "seven nautical miles southwest off Orion Point, Bataan at around 11:00 a.m." the day before.

"The Embassy hopes that any responsible remarks and reports should be based on facts, rather than speculation and misinformation," its spokesperson said.

"China is ready to render further assistance to the Philippine authorities concerned in its investigation, should there [be] such a need."

The Philippine Coast Guard last month also tried to board Chinese research vessel Jia Geng, which the Philippine government had allowed to seek shelter in Catanduanes. The captain of the Jia Geng did not let the PCG board and inspect the vessel, citing health precautions.

The Coast Guard said it instead watched the research ship until it left Philippine waters.

Flags of convenience

It is a business practice among ship operators to fly so-called flags of convenience, or the flag of another country to take advantage of minimal regulation, cheaper registration fees, low to no taxes, or cheaper labor from the global market, according to the International Transport Worker's Federation (ITF).

This practice, the federation adds, often translates to dire working conditions for seafarers.

ITF in its website says "there should be a 'genuine link' between the real owner of a vessel and the flag the vessel flies, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)."

"In many cases, the registries themselves are not even run from the country of the flag."

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