'Ghost ship' sinks as it is towed ashore

'Ghost ship' sinks as it is towed ashore

Mystery surrounds abandoned vessel

An abandoned cargo ship found in the southern waters of the Gulf of Thailand was sunk by rough seas off the coast of Nakhon Si Thammarat while being towed to shore on Saturday night.

The Chinese Jin Shui Yuan 2 vessel, of unknown origin, was initially spotted adrift near oil giant Chevron Corp's offshore rigs last Thursday, about 100 nautical miles from the Songkhla shoreline. Staff on duty for the oil company told local authorities who made the 2nd Naval Area Command based in Songkhla aware of the incident.

In response, 2nd Naval Area commander V/Adm Sunthorn Khamklai deployed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UVA), or drone, to survey the scene and instructed RAdm Surasak Prathanworapanya, deputy director of Thai Maritime Enforcement Command Centre (Thai-MECC) Region 2, to investigate further.

RAdm Surasak said the 2nd Naval Area Command had worked with Thai-MECC Region 2 to tow the abandoned vessel, which locals have already christened "the ghost ship", to shore at Pak Nam Tapi, or the Tapi River mouth, in Muang district of Surat Thani.

However, strong winds upset the ship, causing it to flood and sink about 28 nautical miles from the shore of Nakhon Si Thammarat's Sichon district. Local fishermen have been warned to avoid sailing in the area of the sunken boat.

RAdm Surasak said oil leaking from the wreck would be cleaned within three days to prevent it drifting into waters off the popular tourist destinations of Koh Madsum or Koh Mu in Surat Thani.

Furthermore, authorities are assessing what the potential environmental impact of any attempt to raise the vessel might be, RAdm Surasak said.

An initial examination on Friday found the 80-metre cargo ship had been abandoned and was severely damaged.

There were no crew on board and all documents pertaining to the origin of ship were missing.

The anchor and most of its nautical equipment was malfunctioning and there was barely enough charge in the ship's battery to keep the lights on, he said.

The engine rooms were submerged in water and there was a strong smell of gasoline, he added.

The authorities had needed to pump out nearly half of the water which the vessel had taken in before they could tow it back to land, RAdm Surasak said.

According to a source in the navy, it is believed that the ship was not a victim of piracy but was intentionally abandoned due to the missing anchor and malfunctioning equipment.

There have been no reports of pirates in the area, he said. The name of the sunken ship was not found in the system either.

One theory is that the ship drifted into Thai waters having been working in either Vietnamese or Cambodian waters, said the source.

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