The notorious Tawainese longliner fishing boat, Ho Tsai Fa No. 18, ran aground on the reef at Padang Padang in Bali, Indonesia at 7PM on Friday night – just in time for opening day of the highly anticipated Rip Curl Padang Cup event the following morning.
Rip Curl reports that the contest is still on as scheduled, perhaps even this Friday with July’s next swath of sizable goundswell. Seeing that waves were still being surfed alongside the wreck, the spot is still rideable when small. How it will break once there is a double overhead plus swell required for Padang Padang to work is anybody’s guess. Some say the backwash off the boat will be a debilitating factor. Others reckon the reef might be altered, changing the wave. “We are in touch with the local authorities pushing for the vessel to be removed before it turns into a potential disaster zone when the next big swell hits on Friday,” said Jeff Anderson Rip Curl South Asia’s CEO.
Taiwanese authorities had been seeking assistance from the Indonesian government to find this boat well known for illegal fishing practices that’s been missing since May 13, 2008. Taiwanese skipper Tsai Wen-chen and approximately 16 Indonesian crewmen were on board when it went missing.
Greenpeace has been chasing this boat for years due to its allegedly destructive over-fishing methods and a previous record of controversial landing of shark fins. The last reported sighting of the boat was in Micronesian waters on Thursday by the crew of another Taiwanese fishing vessel, but it quickly took off when the fishing boat tried to approach it. This bizarre reaction raised speculation that the boat may have been taken over by its mutinous Indonesian crew.
Prior to bottoming out on the reef, the boat had been anchored just off the coast of Padang Padang. When it ran aground Friday evening there was no crew onboard, no captain, no documents and no paperwork. According to SURFER staff photographer and Bali resident Jason Childs, “Fourteen of the crew are now under arrest with Indonesian police and two are still on the run. The whole situation got even weirder today when rumor surfaced that the captain may have been murdered by his crew.”
Shortly after the vessel ran aground, its owner reportedly flew in from Taiwan and promised he will come back on July 19th to pull the boat off the reef. To complicate matters, a big swell is predicted to hit this Friday, and who knows if the boat will still be in one piece by then?
“Most of the fuel has already leaked and been pilfered out of the boat by now,” said Childs. “But there is most likely still a significant amount of oil still sitting in there.” Obviously the main concern right now is getting the hideous beast removed before it spews any more toxic diesel and oil all over the pristine reefs.
Stay tuned to SurferMag.com as more details become available.