An old vessel of unknown origin found drifting near an oil platform in the Gulf of Thailand sank while being towed ashore for examination on Saturday night, according to Rear Admiral Surasak Pratanworapanya, deputy director of the Area 2 Thai Maritime Enforcement Command Centre (Thai-MECC).
The ship, believed to be an abandoned cargo ship, was first sighted on Wednesday drifting near an oil platform of Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production Ltd (Chevron Thailand) about 70 nautical miles southeast of Koh Samui.
Crew at the oil platform reported the sighting to V/Adm Sunthorn Khamkhlai, commander of 2nd Naval Area, who on Thursday ordered a drone to be flown out for an aerial examination and the Tor 113 patrol boat dispatched to the spot.
On Thursday night at 10pm, the vessel was found by the patrol boat at the spot reported by Chevron and naval officers went on board to conduct an examination.
The vessel, about 80 metres long and with the name Fin Shul Yuen 2 painted on its sides, was believed to be a cargo ship.
Chinese characters were seen on parts of the ship, but all the numbers had been scraped off. No crew were on board, and there was no sign of any documents, cargo, anchor or other equipment.
The ship was very old, and appeared to have been intentionally abandoned.
The hull of the ship, where power generators and other machines were installed, was about 50% full of water, causing the vessel to tilt about 35 degree sideways.
The naval officers, using electricity from the patrol boat, pumped water out to prevent the boat sinking.
When waves grew stronger, the pumping was called off for safety reasons and the naval patrol boat ordered to leave the site.
On Saturday, a towboat was dispatched to the spot to tow the ship to the mouth of the Tapi river in Muang district of Surat Thani.
On Saturday night, on the way to the shore, about 28 nautical miles from Sichon district of Nakhon Si Thammarat, the ship sank to a depth of about 28 metres.
R/Adm Surasak said HTMS Tapi had been assigned to moor at the spot where the vessel sank. The marine office of Nakhon Si Thammarat had issued a warning for fishing boats to beware while navigating in the area.
He said oil had leaked from the ship and formed slicks on the surface.
The slicks would be cleaned up in a few days before they could cause environmental damage.
It would be decided later whether the boat would be salvaged after all factors had been raised for consideration, R/Adm Surasak said.