Malaysia Detains Chinese Barge Suspected Of Looting WWII British Warship Wrecks In South China Sea

The maritime agency of Malaysia found a cannon shell, said to be from World War II, on a Chinese-registered ship. Hence, it has initiated an investigation into whether the barge carrier was involved in the scavenging and looting of 2 British warship wrecks in the South China Sea.

The ship was initially detained for anchoring in waters off Malaysia’s southern Johor State on Sunday, per the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.

The ship, registered in Fuzhou, China, was carrying 32 crew, of which 21 were Chinese, 10 were Bangladeshis and a Malaysian.

WWII British Warship Wrecks In South China Sea
Credits: Agensi Penguatkuasaan Maritim Malaysia / Facebook

This shocking discovery comes after local fishermen and divers informed authorities about seeing a foreign vessel in the area last month.

The barge is suspected of targeting two British world war II wrecks off the Malaysia coast- the HMS Prince of Wales and the HMS Repulse, the two ships that were sunk by Japanese torpedoes in 1941, a few days after the attack on Pearl Harbour happened.

A total of 842 sailors lost their lives, and these shipwrecks off the coast of central Pahang State are designated as war graves.

After hearing of these illegal activities, Britain’s National Museum of the Royal Navy expressed their distress and concern at the apparent vandalism for personal profit. 

Per BBC, the defence ministry condemned the desecration of the two sites labelled as military graves. 

Upon checks and inspections, authorities were surprised to find scrap metal and cannon shells onboard the Chinese barge.

Pictures and videos released by the authorities show a barge carrier with a huge crane carrying heaps of rusty metal. This is known as pre-war steel and could be from the two warships. It is valuable and can be smelted for making scientific and medical equipment. 

The shells can also be lined to another seizure by police at a private scrapyard in Johor last week of several unexploded Second World War era artillery.

The Maritime Agency has stated that it is working with the National Heritage Department of Malaysia to identify the ammunition found.

Also, this is not the first instance where shipwrecks have been targeted. The New Straits Times reported that foreign treasure hunters used their homemade explosives in 2015 to bomb the heavy steel plates on vessels so they could carry them away easily. 

Reference:,, scmp

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