Karaoke calls clues to ghost ship

2003-01-18 14:01

Sydney - The Indonesian crew from a Taiwan fishing boat found abandoned on the high seas off Australia's northwest coast last week might be living it up in karaoke bars, The Australian newspaper speculated on Saturday.

Investigators in the Australian city of Broome were analysing calls made to and from mobile phones that belonged to the crew members aboard the High Aim 6.

Local calls made on the Indonesian island of Bali and in the Philippines were from mobile phones belonging to the captain, Chen Tai-chen, and first mate, Lee Ah-duey, both Taiwan nationals.

The Indonesian-flagged vessel also had 10 Indonesian crew.

The daughter of Lee Ah-duey heard what sounded like a karaoke bar when she tried to phone her father to seek his whereabouts.

She said she fears he has been kidnapped and robbed by the Indonesian crew.

Fishy ghost ship

Investigators were trying to piece together the movements of the High Aim 6 between October 31, when it left the port of Liuchiu in Taiwan, and January 8, when it was boarded by navy personnel 250 kilometres off the west coast of Broome in Western Australia.

There was plenty of fuel, as well as food and water, on the modern long-line fishing boat when it was boarded. There was no sign of a struggle, and no evidence that lifeboats had been launched.

Personal belongings were found on the 130-tonne vessel, including seven toothbrushes, and a catch of rotting fish in the hold was taken as evidence that the High Aim 6 was a legitimate fishing vessel.

The last reports from the captain were that the ship was heading for fishing grounds off the Marshall Islands, halfway between Papua New Guinea and Hawaii.

The US Coast Guard, which was asked by the owners to launch a search in late December, spotted a life raft near the Marshall Islands but was unable to retrieve it. - Sapa-DPA