via The Straits Times, 27 Feb 2018: New research on the illegal plunder of shipwrecks in Southeast Asian waters highlight the role of Malaysian firms
SE Asia News -PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Some Malaysian salvage firms are working with an international syndicate to plunder sunken wartime wrecks in search for rare and highly-sought low-background steel, used in sensitive medical and scientific equipment.. Read more at straitstimes.com.
Source: Malaysia firms plunder sunken wrecks for rare steel used to make sensitive medical, scientific equipment, SE Asia News & Top Stories – The Straits Times
via The Guradian, 22 January 2018: The illegal salvage operations in Indonesian waters take a more sombre tone as reports emerge that human remains are being unceremoniously dumped. The second link below is worth taking a look at; it is a more in-depth investigation at the racket and the ships (mostly Chinese and Indonesian) involved.
Illegal metal scavengers accused of disposing of remains from British and Dutch warships
Source: Bodies of second world war sailors in Java sea ‘dumped in mass grave’
via The Conversation, 16 November 2017:
More than 48 shipwrecks have been illicitly salvaged – and the figure may be much higher. Museums can play a key role in the protection of these wrecks, alongside strategic recovery and legislative steps.
Source: The race to save up to 50 shipwrecks from looters in Southeast Asia
via NHK World, 07 November 2017: An interesting video story from NHK World about the underwater salvagers who operate in the Chao Phraya River that cuts through Bangkok.
Running through central Bangkok is the Chao Phraya River. On it is the city’s largest floating village, Mittakham. About 300 people live there. The community is estimated to be about 100 years old.
A development project means the community is scheduled to be torn down. Its residents are being forced to move from the river that’s given them their livelihoods for generations.
One of them is 53-year-old Jamroen Bua-Sri. Every day, he puts on a steel helmet and goes into the river to hunt for antiques and other treasures. He’s one of about 40 such divers. The river was a crucial trade route linking the ancient capital of Ayutthaya to China and other Asian countries, so it’s surprising what can turn up.
“My grandfather was a fisherman. One day, he found something in the river, and there were people who paid for it. So he began to search for lost treasures in the river,” says Jamroen. He has salvaged more than 10,000 items. He says this is an amulet from the early Ayutthaya Kingdom period that ended in the mid-1700s. Some artifacts retrieved by the divers have even gone into national museum collections.
Source: Thai Treasure Divers Lose Out to Economic Growth – Editor’s Picks – News – NHK WORLD – English
The Maritime Executive, 08 May 2017: The Malaysian and Indonesian authorities have detained the MV Chuan Hong 68 and her crew, a vessel which is believed to be illegally looting shipwrecks (including war graves) in Indonesian and Malaysian waters.
MV Chuan Hong
Somebody has been stealing warships from Southeast Asian waters – more specifically, sunken warships, which are prized for their scrap metal value. Indonesian authorities now believe that they have caught one of the perpetrators: they allege that the 8,000 gt Chinese grab dredger Chuan Hong 68 was responsible for illegally scavenging the wrecks of the pre-WWII Japanese destroyer Sagiri, plus the passenger vessels Hiyoshi Maru and Katori Maru, the steamship Igara and the tanker Seven Skies.
It is the second time that maritime authorities have caught the Chuan Hong 68 in as many months. On April 20, the Indonesian Navy detained her in the waters off Natuna in the Riau Islands on the suspicion that she was engaged in illegal dredging. She escaped on April 22 and fled to Malaysia, where she was detained once again by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.
Source: Indonesia Captures Maritime Grave Robbers
Indonesia seeks Interpol’s help to find dredger (Straits Times, 23 April 2017)
The Thieves Who Steal Sunken Warships, Right Down to the Bolts (Outside Online, 02 May 2017)
Indonesia Detains Chinese-flagged Dredger for Looting Sunken Treasure (Netral, 07 May 2017)
The contents of a shipwreck found in the waters of the Riau Islands will be split between museums in Indonesia and sold to the domestic market. This might be an interesting case to follow as an alternative way to balance the illicit salvage of underwater cultural properties against state intervention and public partnership. The finds from the ship date to the Ming Dynasty, but I am unable to determine much from the archaeology of the ship as the article is in Bahasa Indonesia. (Thanks to Shu from the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre for the heads up).
Ming Dynasty jarlet from a shipwreck in the Riau Islands. Source: Detik 20150216
Harta Karun Kapal Dinasti Ming di Batam akan Dilelang
Detik.com, 16 February 2015
Pemerintah akan mengangkat kapal karam dari Dinasti Ming bermuatan aneka harta di Perairan Bintan, Batam, Kepulauan Riau. Bagaimana nasib harta karunnya nanti?
Kasubid Pendayagunaan Sumber Daya Kelautan KP3K Kementerian Kelautan dan Perikanan (KKP), Rusman Hariyanto mengatakan, usai kapal diangkat proses selanjutnya adalah pengumpulan Benda Muat Kapal Tenggelam (BMKT) dan ditempatkan sementara di salah satu gudang penyimpanan di Bintan.
Beberapa BMKT akan dipilih dan dibagikan ke beberapa museum sebagai sumber pengetahuan sejarah. Setelah itu, BMKT yang tersisa akan dilelang di pasar dalam negeri.
Full story here.
Authorities in Vietnam’s Ninh Thuan province have confiscated a pair of cannons salvaged from the waters that were sold for scrap metal.
Cannons salvaged from Ninh Thuan Province, 20130326
Two ancient cannons sold as scrap
Vietnam Net, 26 March 2013
As interests over the shipwreck off Quang Ngai Province intensifies, this feature discusses the profits to be made from the commercial salvage and sale from shipwrecks in Vietnam, but does little to discuss the academic and archaeological benefits of such salvage.
Antiques collected from a sunken ship in Binh Chau commune, Quang Ngai province, Vietnam Net 20120927
Overseas auctions of Vietnam’s antiques: good and bad
Vietnam Net, 27 Sep 2012
I was on holiday when the Smithsonian announced that it would not be hosting the Belitung Shipwreck exhibition last month. Much inked has been spilled, particularly by commentators in Singapore decrying the decision. Here’s a roundup and my take.
Changsha Wares from the Belitung Shipwreck
Despite a trade ban in the 16th century, salvage from the Nan’ao-1 off Shantou City reveals that there was a healthy demand for Chinese export goods, leading ships to engage in illegal trade for profit.
Ancient ship gives up hoard of rare porcelain
Xinhua, via the Shanghai Daily, 03 May 2010