Smoke rises from the Kai Xin fishing vessel in the Southern Ocean. All 97 crew members were later rescued.
By Shannon Najmabadi
While the captain didn’t go down with it, a Chinese factory fishing ship that caught fire last week reportedly sunk on Sunday afternoon off the coast of Antarctica.
After the vessel in question, a 104-metre ship named Kai Xin, went up in flames last week, a nearby Norwegian trawler rescued the vessel’s 97 crew members.
Hence, no crew members were onboard when the Kai Xin sunk near Bransfield Straight at the Antarctic peninsula, Chile’s navy said on Monday.
Fu Rong Hai, another Chinese fishing boat passing through the Antarctic waters, gave the first alert that the Kai Xin was sinking. Via email, the Fu Rong Hai reported that the Kai Xin no longer appeared on radar, and crew members later spotted “fishing nets and small boats drifting in the chilly water”.
Under instruction from the Chilean navy, the Fu Rong Hai remained in place until the navy tugboat Lautaro reached the site and began searching for the sunken Kai Xin.
The Chilean tugboat also stood ready to contain any spilled fuel as officials feared the environmental damage that could be incurred by an oil spill.
However, Captain Juan Villegas, maritime governor for Chile’s portion of Antarctica, said that an oil spill now appeared unlikely.
According to the Associated Press:
“An environmental disaster is ruled out because of the fire on board,” Villegas said. “Experts say that if there was any fuel on board it has burned out by now.”
The Kai Xin was operated by Shanghai Kaichuang Marine International Co, a company specializing in deep-sea fishing and processing.
“A company statement posted last week said the fire occurred while the ship was fishing. It said Kaichuang would investigate the cause of the accident and the extent of the damage before releasing more details.”