More traces found, but Vietnam missing ship still unknown

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Rescuers have found more traces of the Vietnamese ship that went missing with 22 crewmen off the Philippines on December 25 but the ship is still nowhere to be found.  

In a report on Sunday, the delegation of Vinalines Shipping Co., which was assigned to the Philippines to search for the Vinalines Queen and its crew, said a lifeboat alleged to be from the freighter has been found.

The boat, which was empty and damaged, was found drifting at 20-04.3N; 119-25.9E by the Hong Kong Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Center on Saturday.

In the meantime, Nguyen Anh Vu, director general of Vietnam Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Center, said the crewmen's families claimed that three of their mobile phone numbers still rang when called.

It is likely that the mobile phones are somewhere else, not onboard, because they would have been broken when the ship sank, Vu said.

However, the families said the company has sent proposals to Interpol agencies in foreign countries asking for help in identifying the phones' locations.

Previously on Friday, Dau Van Hung, believed to be the sole survivor, was rescued on a lifeboat some 350 kilometers from the site where Vinalines Queen was located before it went missing.

He claimed that the carrier, which was carrying 54,000 tons of nickel ore, sank at around 7 a.m. on December 25 after it tilted too much to the left.

Because the ship sank quickly, the missing crewmen did not have high chance of surviving, according to the Vinalines' delegation.

However, rescuers will search the vacant islands within the Balintang Chennel area of the Philippines, where the crew would probably drift to if they are still alive


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Nguyen Van Hanh, director of Vinalines Shipping Co., said the deadline for the rescue mission has not been determined, adding that the top priority is to search and rescue the ship before learning about the accident's cause.

Meanwhile, the families of the missing crewmen are dissatisfied with the company's performance in the rescue mission, saying that the company hasn't been "bold" enough and hasn't fulfilled its responsibilities.

Le Ba Hop, former deputy general director of Vietnam Maritime Safety Cooperation, whose younger brother Le Ba Truc was among the victims, said the rescue efforts were improper.

Ships should have been mobilized when helicopters failed to find the ship, Hop said. "The National Committee for Search and Rescue needs to take part; it wasn't enough to have maritime rescue forces only."

A representative for the victims' families, Tran Thi Thang, wife of chief mechanic Le Ba Trung, also said Vietnamese agencies needed to act more urgently in their rescue efforts.

"We are wondering if the rescue efforts of the company and rescue centers are urgent enough. Moreover, why did such an accident happen to Vinalines Queen, one of the most advanced ships in Vietnam?" Thang said.

"Lastly, it is a sensitive matter, but we also want to know whether the insurance is decent or not," she added.

A source has told Thanh Nien that the insurance for each sailor is estimated at $40,000.

In response to the families' request and criticism, Vu said all involved agencies have agreed to hire more ships and helicopters, regardless of how much it will cost, to find the sunken vessel.

Vinalines Queen, one of the largest ships of the state-owned Vietnam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines), was lost at 20-00N; 123-47.1E, to the northeast of the Luzon Island. The waters were estimated to be some 5,000 meters deep.

Vinalines said before disappearing, the ship, which was on its way from Morowali in Indonesia to Ningde, had tilted 18 degrees. About an hour earlier, the vessel also reported that it had tilted 20 degrees due to unknown reasons, and that it was being buffeted by strong winds.

According to Vinalines, the ship was built in Japan in 2005 and has an advanced self-protection system that can send out emergency signals in dangerous situations. This would allow rescuers to detect its location even when it is under water.

However, since it went missing, the vessel has not sent any signals.

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