Ghost ship mystery deepens
PERTH, Australia -- The riddle of an Indonesian-registered, Taiwan-owned trawler carrying several tons of rotting fish, seven toothbrushes, but no crew is baffling Australian police.
The "ghost ship" was found last week drifting aimlessly off the Western Australian coast and has since been towed to a quarantine bay close to the fishing port of Broome.
However, police say that despite an extensive search there is no sign of the ship's crew, or any indication of what might have happened to them.
"We have insufficient evidence at this stage to even speculate on what has occurred," federal agent Bill Graham told reporters.
The mystery has deepened further after investigators revealed Tuesday that the ship, the High Aim 6, had recently been some 3,500 nautical miles (6,500 kilometers) away in the Marshall Islands, halfway between Papua New Guinea and Hawaii, The Australian newspaper reported.
Shortly afterwards the owner reported to U.S. authorities that the ship was missing after he had been unable to contact its captain.
Adding to the confusion are mixed reports as to the numbers of those onboard.
Police say the only clue as to how many crew the ship may have carried being the discovery of seven toothbrushes in the living quarters.
There is, however, no clue as to what might have happened to them, or why they might have abandoned an otherwise perfectly serviceable ship.
Police believe the captain of the vessel was from Taiwan, with Indonesians making up most of the rest of the crew.
An aerial and naval search of the surrounding seas did not yield any sign of life or any life vessels that might have come from the ship.
It is unclear whether the ship even carried life rafts.
"At this stage we have not located the crew or discovered any plausible reasons for their absence from the ship," Graham was quoted as saying.
"The simple answer is we may never determine the fate of the crew," he added.
The vessel was found carrying more than three tons of rotting tuna and mackerel in its hold, and had plenty of fuel and food.
Officials say one possibility if that the boat piloted itself all the way from the Marshall Islands.
Another line of inquiry is focusing on the possibility of piracy, a growing problem in the region.
However, investigators say there is no sign of a struggle, or that anything might have been stolen from the boat.
"Our main concern is for the safety of the crew, " Graham told reporters. "As time goes on the prospects of locating the crew alive decrease."