Stranded Lifeboats at Xingda Harbour

Two orphaned lifeboats looking rather ungainly out of water
Two orphaned lifeboats looking rather ungainly out of water

I found this pair of marooned lifeboats whilst out cycling around the Xìngdá Harbor 興達港 area North of Kaohsiung City. Spend some time wandering around the docklands and you come across all kinds of interesting marine junk retired from its harsh life at sea. From a little cursory research, it appears that these specimens are actually referred to as TEMPSC’s or ‘Totally Enclosed Motor Propelled Survival Craft’ and are generally carried by larger transoceanic vessels whose crews may be days from rescue in the case of evacuation — hence the extensive supplies of drinking water I found still aboard (emblazoned with a helpful reminder NOT to drink sea water).

Encased in Green plastic amongst the passenger seating. You can one of the flooring panels has been removed, exposing the craft's small diesel engine
Encased in Green plastic amongst the passenger seating. You can one of the flooring panels has been removed, exposing the craft's small diesel engine
Emergency packets of drinking water and a few (very expired looking) flares in a hatch under the floor
Emergency packets of drinking water and a few (very expired looking) flares in a hatch under the floor

Because of the keel protruding from the bottom of both boats, the floor is tilted some 45° with small pools of water (probably from rain rather than the sea) and engine oil having formed on the floor. The older of the two is a little more decayed inside with mold pockmarking the inner walls, and spiders having spun a silken fortress by the controls, but the other is remarkably clean and looks like it might be reused with somewhat minimal repairs and cleaning. Still attached to the door was a manifest containing names along with passport and phone numbers indicating a crew of predominantly Chinese and Burmese workers, with an Indonesian Master and Chief Officer.

In the pilot's seat inside the older of the two lifeboats
In the pilot's seat inside the older of the two lifeboats
The decaying interior of the older lifeboat. I think the pipes are for the exhaust
The decaying interior of the older lifeboat. I think the pipes are for the exhaust
There's no arguments as to who sits where - each crew member has their own allotted space
There's no arguments as to who sits where - each crew member has their own allotted space
Behind the wheel of the newer lifeboat with a view into the crew area
Behind the wheel of the newer lifeboat with a view into the crew area

When I initially came across these, I assumed they’d been grounded due to being faulty, or perhaps were due to be rotated to newer models, but the truth is actually a little more interesting. The newer of the two boats still has the name of its former vessel on the hull: ‘Tàicānghú 1 太仓湖11, which appears to have been a small container ship sailing under the flag of Panama2 and when looked up in Chinese, reveals that this was one of seven grounded near Cijin just off the South-Western Kaohsiung coast during Tropical Depression Luis back in August 2018. Fortunately all the crews were airlifted to safety by the coastguard without injury so no lifeboats appear to have actually been launched. It’s likely that these two were recovered as part of the salvage effort once the storm had abated and are now awaiting refitting, scrap or perhaps some other mysterious purpose.

  1. 太仓 (Tàicāng) referring to the port city in China and 湖 (Hú) translates to lake, although I’m not sure which (if any) this refers to
  2. A very common arrangement is for a vessel to fly under a different flag from that of the owner’s country of residence as it will then be subject to the flagged territory’s (typically laxer) laws, enabling the hiring of cheaper labour and the dodging of income tax. The ease of registration in Panama (non Panamanian residents can all-too-readily apply), generally results in it being the ‘Go-to’ proxy. Here’s an informative BBC article that goes into a little more detail on the practice.
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