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Possibly hijacked fishing vessel now untraceable: skipper's family

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A Taiwanese fishing boat that might have been hijacked by its Indonesian crew has had its vessel monitoring system (VMS) turned off, leaving its current position untraceable, the family of the boat's skipper said yesterday.

The boat was last pinpointed off the northern coast of the eastern Indonesian province of West Papua the previous morning, according to Chen Chih-wen's family.

The boat's VMS, however, was turned off at 7 p.m. Friday, the family said.

During a visit to the family Saturday evening, officials from the Fisheries Agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Indonesian government had sent two naval ships to look for the fishing boat, but to no avail.

Indonesia is prepared to dispatch one more ship to join the search, the officials added.

Registered in Donggang, Pingtung County, the vessel set out from Palau for the Solomon Islands eight days ago. It was skippered by Chen and crewed by 12 Indonesians.

The boat's owner, Lin Chin-hsi, placed several satellite phone calls to Chen June 19 but nobody answered, even though the calls went through, leading Lin to suspect that his boat had been hijacked.

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