Bioethics Blogs

Tragedy strikes Taiwanese research ship


The sinking of the Ocean Research V in an image from a video released by Taiwan’s Coast Guard.

Taiwan Coast Guard/AFP via Getty

Two scientists died on 11 October after the research vessel they were on, Taiwan’s Ocean Research V, capsized in the Taiwan Strait. Another 25 scientists and 18 crew members were rescued. 

The 73-metre, 2,700-tonne vessel, which had been operating only since February 2013, cost 1.5 billion new Taiwan dollars (US$50 million). It had three laboratories, sonar for seafloor mapping, multiple plankton samplers and other devices for comprehensive ocean exploration. It was built to carry out scientific and as well as resource surveys, including sampling sea-bed gas hydrates and offshore wind turbine sites.

The Ocean Research V was also equipped with a dynamic positioning system to enable it “to conduct highly precise action on sea even under strong winds in the situation of typhoon or strong monsoon“, according to the Taiwan Ocean Research Institute, which operated it. But on the night of 10 October, one day after setting sail, the ship capsized near Penghu island, some 50 kilometres off of Taiwan’s western coast. Some speculate that it hit a reef after being blown off course by strong winds related to a typhoon. 

Hsu Shih-chieh, a researcher at the Academia Sinica in Taipei, reportedly died after making efforts to save his fellow researchers. Lin Yi-chun, a scientist at the Taiwan Ocean Research Institute, also died.

The Ministry of Science and Technology is now investigating the cause of the accident.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.