The Chinese Embassy in Manila on Wednesday denied reports that the dredging ship MV Zhonhai 68 recently seized by Philippines authorities off Bataan waters is a Chinese owned or registered vessel.
“Initial investigation on the identity of MV Zhonhai 68 by relevant Chinese authorities has shown that the ship is not registered in China and not a Chinese ship,” the Chinese Embassy said in a statement posted on its website.
Citing information from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Chinese Embassy said the ship with IMO number 8692665, is “under the flag of Sierra Leone.”
It further noted that no Chinese national was onboard the dredging ship when authorities seized the vessel last month.
The Embassy also slammed what it described as mere “media speculation” regarding reports attributing the seized dredging vessel to China, even as it assured Philippine authorities of its readiness to render assistance in the investigation “should there be such a need.”
Before it was seized last month, MV Zhonhai 68 was spotted during a combined Philippine Coast Guard and Bureau of Customs maritime patrol around 15 kilometers off Orion Point in Bataan province.
Upon boarding the vessel, the PCG said they discovered the automatic identification system transponder of the ship was turned off and its two Cambodian crew members aboard failed to present proper documents.
Reports showed that Zhonhai 68, a 2,340-ton general cargo ship, is operating under a Sierra Leone flag and reportedly operated by HK Weifeng Hangyun Co. Ltd., a company registered in Malaysia.