Wednesday, September 16, 1998

Boat caught
smuggling Chinese
into Guam

By Harold Morse


The U.S. Coast Guard has seized a fishing vessel with 23 illegal Chinese immigrants aboard off Guam.

After a high-speed chase, the cutter Galveston Island took over the vessel about 150 nautical miles south of Guam on Monday night Hawaii time.

The immigrants were reported to be the second wave of a group of Chinese nationals detained earlier by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service on Guam.

A skiff was found aground early Monday on a beach near Mangilao. The small boat had been used to offload a group of immigrants found by immigration agents.

At the same time, the Galveston Island approached a vessel drifting nearby with its lights off. This vessel then sped away and began a series of erratic course changes, authorities said.

The cutter crew also noticed the name and home-port markings on the badly rusted vessel appeared to have been freshly painted over.

While still in U.S. territorial waters, the cutter directed the fishing vessel to stop and be boarded.

Attempts were made to communicate with the suspect vessel, in English and Chinese, by radio and with a loudspeaker. The fishing vessel crew did not answer.

Later, the master of the vessel said he did not intend to stop and declined a Coast Guard request to board the vessel once the chase led them out of U.S. territorial waters.

After that, the crew of the Galveston Island boarded the ship without permission.

A seven-member boarding team from the 110-foot cutter came alongside and jumped from their small boat onto the fleeing vessel, then proceeded to the pilot house and seized it.

"We've seen a marked increase in large-scale migrant smuggling into Guam," said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Michael Tosatto. "In a similar joint effort in June, the Coast Guard and INS interdicted 73 Chinese migrants," he said. "The smugglers in that case are currently undergoing prosecution."

The Galveston Island escorted the ship back to Guam, where waiting federal marshals and immigration agents took the migrants into custody.

The three crew members are evidently from mainland China's Fujian Peninsula.

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