Malaysian and Indonesian maritime authorities have recently teamed up to capture and arrest the crew of a Chinese grab dredger suspected of illegally scavenging for valuable metals from the wrecks of sunken warships.
The 8,352-ton hopper dredger Chuan Hong 68 was first captured by the Indonesian Navy on April 20 on allegations of illegal dredging activities, but because it wasn't properly guarded, the vessel managed to flee the crime scene off the Riau Islands into international waters.
Soon it was reported that Chuan Hong 68 was seized again by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency in the Pengerang waters, East Johor, with scrap metal reportedly discovered covering the deck of the ship.
Authorities believe the metal comes from the wreck of the Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer Sagiri, which was sunk by a torpedo from a Dutch submarine in December 1941 with the loss of 121 of her 241-strong crew.
Indonesian Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Susi Pudjiastuti, said in a statement that pillaging of warship wrecks for their valuable metals was unfortunately common in Indonesian waters, by both foreign and domestic ships. The practice, meanwhile, is illegal for while the remains of the crew remain aboard the sunken vessels, they are recognized as war graves and are protected by law.
"There are bodies in these ships and they should be respected as war graves," David Yiu, director of Singapore-based Friendly Waters Seasports Pte., told Deutsche Welle.
"The ships are of historic significance because the men that are still inside them gave their lives for their countries."
Among the dozens of wartime wrecks in the region are two of the most iconic Royal Navy ships in history. The HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales were sunk by Japanese aircraft just days after the Japanese attack on the US base in Pearl Harbor.
Meanwhile on Monday, America is celebrating Memorial Day, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the US military.
This story first appeared on Sputnik & is reposted here with permission.