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According to the Myanmar Times, a container ship that has been missing for nine years recently ran aground off the Burmese coast near the municipality of Thongwa in the Yangon region.
The vessel, which bears the name Sam Ratulangi PB 1600, was first seen by a fisherman about 6 miles from the village of Thama Seitta.
According to the Thongwa Police, Aarav Guliyev was trolling the waters off the Burmese coast when he saw the ship, aground at a sandbar. After he boarded the vessel and found no crew, he returned to port and contacted the local authorities.
Thongwa police sought the assistance of the Myanmar Navy, who subsequently inspected the ship.
"No crew or cargo was found on the ship. It was quite puzzling how such a big ship turned up in our waters," the Myanmar Times quoted U Ne Win Yangon, a Myanmarese MP, as saying.
U Aung Kyaw Linn, secretary general of the Independent Federation of Sea Navigators of Burma, said the ship is still in "perfect, working order."
Per Maritime Telegraph, the Sam Ratulangi PB 1600 was built in 2001 as a container ship for nonspecific industrial cargo.
The container vessel was last seen off the Taiwanese coast in 2009. When it was last spotted, the ship was flying an Indonesian flag.
An immediate explanation has been put forth by the Myanmar Navy, but according to skeptical reports in the international media, this seems mostly to be an attempt to quell wild speculation.
The firsthand account of the fisherman who boarded the vessel paints a spooky, if interesting, picture of "the ghost ship that went missing for nine years..."
When the Sam Ratulangi suddenly reappeared south of Myanmar in the Indian Ocean on August 30th, it was puzzling.
"It seemed to appear out of nowhere," said Aarav Guliyev. "In the vastness of the sea, it was the only thing on the horizon. It was a strange sight."
Spotted in the early morning hours just after dawn, Guliyev thought the ship was in distress.
A local fishermen from a small Myanmarese village, Guliyev makes his living catching prawn and lobsters in special nets he makes himself.
"I learned this work from my father, who learned it from his father," said Guliyev. "I sell what I catch in the market."
The fishermen boarded the Sam Ratulangi by scaling a thin latter attached to the stern of the enormous vessel.
After searching the bridge and the winch house, Guliyev made his way down into the cargo bay.
With no flashlight, he descended a set of stairs in the near darkness. In the belly of the ship, he found no cargo, no people, and no explanation.
"I quickly left the ship," said Guliyev. "I had a weird feeling. I should not have gone there."
After returning home, he contacted the local authorities and told them of the mysterious vessel. Once the press began running the story of the "ghost ship," additional details emerged that further complicated the already strange story.
The Myanmar Times quoted General Secretary of the Independent Federation of Myanmar Seafarers U Aung Kyaw Linn as confirming the vessel was still in "running condition."
Linn said: "In my opinion, the ship was recently abandoned. There must be a reason why it was abandoned."
That shocking reason, however, wouldn't come to light for a few more days...
The Myanmar Navy's official position is that the freighter was in the process of being towed to a ship-breaking factory in Bangladesh.
The crew reportedly abandoned the vessel after they were caught in bad weather.
Police and observers were initially baffled at how such a large ship, with no sailors or goods on board, had ended up in Myanmar.
Three days after the vessel was found ran aground, authorities with the Myanmar Navy said they suspected the ship had been towed by another ship as "two cables were found at its head."
Their efforts later located a tugboat, styled Independence, about 50 miles off Myanmar's coast.
After questioning the 13 Indonesian crew members on board, they learned that the tugboat had been towing the vessel since the 13th of August. The crew intended to take it to a factory in Bangladesh that would dismantle and salvage the ship.
The crew confirmed that when some of the cables attached to the boat broke in bad weather, they decided to abandon the Sam Ratulangi.
And while their explanation seems logical enough, it doesn't account for the nine years the ship was missing...
The tugboat crew said they set out from Jakarta, Indonesia, on August 13th, to haul the ship to a salvage factory in Bangladesh.
A storm hit them on August 26th and snapped their tow cables, forcing them to abandon the vessel somewhere on the Indian Ocean.
But how did the tugboat crew come to possess the Sam Ratulangi in the first place?
The 177-meter-long ship was built in 2001 and was last recorded near Taiwan in 2009, according to the ship-tracking site Marine Traffic.
The ship was registered in Indonesia and has been considered decommissioned or lost for nearly a decade!
"It’s still unclear what happened to the ghost ship between its last known movements in 2009 and its failed trip to the scrapyard last month," said U Aung Kyaw Linn.
The cargo ship is owned by an individual in Malaysia, according to a report from Eleven Myanmar.
But this isn't the first ship to disappear, and then strangely reappear.
In fact, this phenomenon is unbelievably common...
“Two large ships sink every week on average worldwide,” said Dr. Wolfgang Rosenthal, an expert on maritime disasters.
Susan Carson, author of The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean, said:
“That's like ever single 747 slipping off the map with all its passengers, never to be heard from again. Imagine the headlines for something like that!"
According to an annual analysis from insurer Allianz, 94 ships — that's over 100 gross tons — were completely lost in 2013.
Of course, there are many reasons for a complete loss. “Foundering,” which is the technical term for sinking or submerging, accounts for the vast majority of the big losses.
But the big question is how many have disappeared without a trace?
According to that report, there were seven ships that were “missing or overdue” in the 11 years from 2002 to 2013. And the possible explanations for those mysterious disappearances range from the rational to the downright bizarre.
But sometimes, truth really is stranger than fiction...