Diesel smugglers arrested
PHUKET: Two Taiwanese fishing boats were seized and 12 crew members arrested near Phuket on Sunday for smuggling diesel oil into Thai waters.
Monday 23 April 2012, 05:35PM
The two tuna longliners were detected and stopped to the north of Tapao Yai island, which is just off Cape Panwa. Between them, the two boats were carrying 47,000 liters of diesel stored in refrigeration lockers normally used for icing down the catch.
Arrested by customs officials were three Indonesian crew members and their Taiwanese skipper Wang Yao Yu, aboard the Ching Chunfa 168; and Taiwanese skipper Huang Chiang Hsieh with his four Indonesian and three Taiwanese crew aboard the Ming Chi Tsai 16.
The illegal oil was found inside the cold storage lockers at the bow of the two boats, leading officers to believe the suspects had smuggled oil before, since the lockers cannot be used to store fish after being contaminated with oil.
The Phuket News noted that both boats were also under-crewed; research shows that the Ching Chunfa 168 would normally have a crew of 14 and the Ming Chi Tsai 16 a crew of 10.
Customs officials said they suspect that the oil was bought in Indonesia for resale to fishing boats in Thai waters. Diesel is heavily subsidised in Indonesia, and sells for around B18 a litre, compared with B32 to B35 in Thailand.
The owners of the boats, both of which are registered in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, have already contacted officials to request bail for their crew.