Maersk Dubai incident

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The Maersk Dubai incident took place in 1996 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. The vessel was owned, officered and crewed by the Yang Ming Marine Transport Corporation.


On 12 March 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 18 May of the same year, while the vessel was en route to the Port of Halifax, Nova Scotia, another Romanian, Gheorghe Mihoc, was found hiding in a large cargo container, and was 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 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 had been thrown overboard in order to avoid paying a fine of US$5090 for each illegal immigrant brought into Canada. Craig Garson, QC, Duncan Beveridge, QC, Kevin Coady, David Bright, Warren Zimmer, Josh Arnold and Kevin Burke QC represented the Taiwanese crew members charged with murder who were involved in the extradition process. Lee Cohen, a Halifax immigration lawyer, acted on behalf of some of the Filipino crew members, while the Republic of China (Taiwan) retained the services of the Canadian criminal lawyer Edward Greenspan.

Taiwan 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.

You Shar Cheng, the Taiwanese crew member represented by lawyer Josh Arnold, was discharged during the course of the extradition hearing when the Crown's witness recanted his allegations against Cheng during cross examination. Cheng was then allowed to leave Canada facing no charges, and returned home.

Some of the other Taiwanese 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' deaths. 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 might 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 Yang Ming Lines.

As of 2006 the surviving stowaway was living in Chicago, United States[1]. 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[by whom?] to have gone into hiding during the proceedings for fear of reprisals by agents hired by Yang 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 Ming Fortune was built in 1983 by the China Shipbuilding Corporation at their Kaohsiung shipyard in Taiwan. In 1994, she was chartered to Maersk Line, where she sailed under the name MV Maersk Dubai. In June 1996, she was renamed the Med Taichung and sailed under that name until August 2003, when she was again renamed the Kota Permas.[2] In June 2004, she was renamed one final time to the YM Fortune, before eventually being broken up.[3]