'Human cargo' ship held by Singapore

SINGAPORE (AP) - A small cargo vessel carrying 129 people who were being smuggled to the United States was held by the Singapore authorities yesterday .

Marine police who boarded the 499-ton Solas on Sunday found 138 people on board - 116 men, 13 women and nine crew.

They said 128 of the illegal immigrants - squeezed into three tiers of makeshift wooden bunks in the hold - were Chinese, from Fujian and Shanghai, and one from Hong Kong. None had travel documents, and they would probably be returned home.

'Each of the illegal passengers had apparently promised to pay up to dollars 30,000 (pounds 20,000) to get to the United States,' said Chua Chin Kiat, director of operations at the Home Affairs Ministry.

The Solas was originally known as Galahad, of Taiwanese ownership and registered in Kingstown, capital of St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean.

It left Hong Kong on 25 November bound for New York. Police said it spent eight days at the Taiwanese port of Keelung for repairs, where the bunks may have been installed. The passengers were taken on board at Rock Island, near Keelung.

The smuggling voyage started to go wrong after an unclear distress signal was received in Singapore on Friday indicating that armed men were on board.

'Whether or not some members of the crew withdrew from the plan to smuggle the illegals we are not sure. But it is clear that there was some dispute and a message was sent out which alerted us,' Mr Chua said.

After the first message, the ship maintained radio silence until it entered Singapore waters after nightfall on Saturday. A radio call then said it was bound for Cape Town but five of the nine crew, including the captain, wanted to disembark. The captain was identified as a Burmese, U Tin Hia.

Police boarded the Solas without meeting any resistance after it stopped its engine in a busy shipping lane, against the instructions of the port authority.

Smuggling syndicates that specialise in taking illegal Chinese immigrants to the United States have become increasingly active in recent years, Singapore police say. Most of them operate from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand.

The Solas is the latest in a series of recent incidents. In August, at least 150 landed on the southern coast of Haiti while apparently attempting to reach the US. Fishing boats and small cargo vessels were used to carry more than 100 people on most voyages, said Khoo Boon Hui, director of the Criminal Investigations Department.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant

£12500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This accounting practice is looking for ...

Recruitment Genius: Casual Visitor Experience Assistants

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To work within the Visitor Experience Departm...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy