MMEA detains Chinese dredger for war grave desecration

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) has detained a China-registered dredger believed to have been scavenging for World-War 2-era (WW2) shipwrecks east of Tanjung Siang.

Agensi Penguatkuasaan Maritim Malaysia photo

The shipwrecks were identified to be from the remains of Royal Navy ships HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales that sank on 10 December 1941 after the ships were attacked and sunk by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy. 

The dredger Chuan Hong 68 was spotted last week at the wreck site, and a patrol boat from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) transited out to inspect it on Monday.

The MMEA employed the local practice of detaining the ship for unpermitted anchoring – the inspectors found rusting artillery shells and other scrap on the ship.

Agensi Penguatkuasaan Maritim Malaysia photo

The Chuan Hong’s connection with wreck site robbing is under investigation.

The crew consisted of 21 Chinese nationals, 10 Bangladeshis and one Malaysian, aged between 23 to 57 years.

The penalty for the crewmembers could be as much as two years in prison, if convicted.