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Chinese vessel grounded on French Polynesian reef to be dismantled

Tuesday 19 April 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in French Polynesia, Regional


Chinese vessel grounded on French Polynesian reef to be dismantled
Shen Gang Shun 1 stuck on reef of Arutua Photo: supplied

Preparations are being finalised to dismantle a Chinese fishing vessel stuck on the reef of the French Polynesian atoll Arutua for more than two years.

Attempts in 2020 to dislodge the Shen Gang Shun 1 were unsuccessful and now the European wreck removal company Koole has been contracted to disassemble the ship.

Its tug and barge arrived in Papeete before continuing to Arutua where the salvage crew is expected to spend about five weeks to cut the 50-metre-long ship into segments for disposal.

The cost of the operation has been put at an estimated $US3.5m, which the French Polynesian government will pay while hoping to recover the outlay from the owners, Shenzhen Shengang Overseas Industrial Company.

Shortly after the Shen Gang Shun 1 hit the reef, French rescue helicopters uplifted its crew of 36 crew and transferred them to other fishing vessels belonging to the company.

Days later, while trying to assist salvage efforts, the mayor of Arutua and other fishermen discovered frozen sharks stitched up with cut-off fins inside in the vessel's hold.

French Polynesia has the world's largest shark sanctuary, and it is forbidden to possess or transport protected species, be they dead or alive.

The initial salvage operation removed 250 tonnes of fuel, 15 tonnes of fish and 62 tonnes of bait.

Last year, the French Polynesian government impounded a vessel of another Chinese fishing company after one of its other boats ran aground.

That company secured the ship's release after paying a bond of $US1.5m to cover the cost of salvaging the wreck.

The transport minister Jean-Christophe Bouissou said the action was needed because the government could not afford spending millions to dismantle and remove wrecks and having to chase their owners for compensation.