Maersk Dubai incident

Maersk Dubai incident

The Maersk Dubai incident took place aboard the Taiwanese-flagged 1,984-TEU container ship Maersk Dubai, which was on a long-term time charter to the A.P. Moller-Maersk Group in 1996. The vessel was owned, officered and crewed by the Yang Ming Marine Transport Corporation.


On March 12 1996, two Romanian stowaways, Radu Danciu and Petre Sangeorzan, were discovered on the container ship Maersk Dubai and ordered overboard on a makeshift raft, approximately 70 kilometres off the coast of Gibraltar. On May 18 of the same year, en route to the Port of Halifax, another Romanian, Gheorghe Mihoc, was found hiding in a large cargo container and forced overboard at knife point by Captain Sheng Hsiu and four of his officers. A fourth stowaway, Nicolae Pasca, was discovered by Filipino crew member Rodolpho "Rudy" Miguel and kept hidden until the ship arrived at Halifax, where eight Filipino crewmen (including Miguel) jumped ship and reported the incident to the authorities.

Upon arrival in Halifax the Maersk Dubai was stormed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Captain Hsiu and his Taiwanese officers were arrested and charged with first degree murder. The radio operator attempted to escape by jumping into the Halifax harbour and was later arrested. Captain Hsiu attempted to deny access to the ship under international shipping laws.

A spokesman for Yang Ming Lines, owner of the Maersk Dubai, claimed the Filipino crew members had made false accusations in retaliation for a dispute over wages. The Filipino crewmen maintained that the stowaways were thrown overboard in order to avoid paying a fine of US$5090 for each illegal immigrant brought into Canada. Lee Cohen, a Halifax immigration lawyer, acted on behalf of some of the Filipino crew members, while the Republic of China retained the services of the Canadian criminal lawyer Edward Greenspan.

The Republic of China protested the storming of the ship and the arrest of the officers, and contested the attempt by Canadian authorities to extradite them to Romania, citing Article 92 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Article 92 states that "Ships shall sail under the flag of one state only and, save in exceptional cases expressly provided for in international treaties or in this Convention, shall be subject to its exclusive jurisdiction on the high seas." Article 97 of the same Law further holds that "no arrest or detention of the ship, even as a measure of investigation, shall be ordered by any authorities other than those of the flag state." The flag state in this case was the Republic of China, which owns Yang Ming Lines.

The officers were eventually extradited to Taiwan. Captain Hsiu was charged with criminal negligence causing death and was subsequently acquitted for lack of evidence regarding the stowaways' death. None of the other officers were brought to trial.

Several crew members claimed they saw no sign of the makeshift raft after the ship had passed, and believed that it may have been dragged under by the ship's wake. The three stowaways were never seen again. Their families received an out-of-court settlement after filing civil suit against the Yang Ming Lines.

The surviving stowaway is now living in the United States. Four of the Filipino crewmen who reported the incident have remained in Halifax, and three of them now work for the Canadian Coast Guard. Their families in the Philippines were reported to have gone into hiding during the proceedings for fear of reprisals by agents hired by the Ming Lines.

The incident was one of the main themes of progressive metal band Savatage's concept album The Wake of Magellan. A partially fictionalized version of the incident was the plot of the book The Stowaway by Robert Hough.


The MV Maersk Dubai was built in 1983 in Taiwan. After the incident it became the Med Taichung, and now operates as the YM Fortune under Yang Ming Lines.

External links

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