06 DEC 2023 

Like the legendary “Flying Dutchman,” a product tanker thought lost in the Philippines two weeks ago washed ashore today, December 1, hundreds of miles away in Vietnam. The Provincial Boarder Guard Command was puzzled by an uncrewed vessel grounding on its coastline.

The authorities were investigating reports of a large vessel drifting off the coast of Cu Lao Cham island located offshore from Da Nang on the central Vietnamese coast. The vessel appeared abandoned and was driven onto the rocky coast by strong waves. The bow of the vessel was damaged by the grounding, and it became lodged along the coastline.

The Vietnamese Boarder Guard however reported it was impossible to board the vessel because of its position and the strong waves. They were able to identify the vessel as the King Rich, a 132 meter (433 foot) long product tanker registered in Sierra Leone. Other than the damage to the bow during the grounding, the 13,925 dwt vessel however appears to be in good condition.

“Currently, there are no crewmembers aboard the King Rich vessel, and we have not yet ascertained the remaining cargo and fuel on the ship. Authorities are actively implementing surveillance and protection measures to restrict public access to the ship,” the leadership of the Border Guard Command of Quang Nam Province reported.

The previously reported position of the King Rich was on November 18, approximately 80 nautical miles from Badoc Island, in the Philippines, nearly 1,000 miles away from Vietnam near the Philippine island of Luzon. 

The 13 Indonesian and three Chinese crewmembers aboard the King Rich abandoned ship on November 18 reporting that the ship’s propeller shaft had broken, and it was taking on water. They later told the Philippines Coast Guard that they had secured the engine and fuel tanks before getting into the life rafts. The Coast Guard congratulated a Hong Kong-registered containership for its quick action in rescuing the crew.

Two days after the vessel was abandoned, the Philippine Coast Guard overflew the area and reported the ship was still afloat. They had ordered the owner to make arrangements to tow the vessel before it was lost.

Eleven days later, the King Rich grounded in Vietnam apparently having drifted in a southwesterly direction across the width of the South China Sea.

It is the second incident this week when an unmanned vessel washed ashore. South Korea was faced with a mystery when a small, Chinese-registered vessel was found abandoned and sinking on its coast. The Chinese owner of the vessel reported that the vessel had washed away from an anchorage in Shandong Province, while the Koreans were also checking to make sure the vessel was not conducting illegal activities or being purposefully sunk for an insurance claim.


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