On the behalf of the Republic of China (R.O.C.), the Council of Agriculture (COA) formally bestowed a fisheries research vessel to the Republic of the Marshall Islands on Oct. 11, 2012. Wealth of the Four Seas, a ship previously operated by the COA's Fisheries Research Institute (FRI), will be retrofitted as a cargo freight to assist the Pacific ally in its sea transport operations.
The 37-meter-long, 8.1-meter-wide Wealth of the Four Seas was constructed in 1980. The ship, which features a 314-ton steel frame and is powered by a single-propulsion motor system with 1,100 horsepower, travels at an average speed of 11.5 knots but can reach a maximum of 12.5 knots. In its 30-some years of service under the FRI, the fisheries research vessel was deployed to Papua New Guinea for pair trawling experiments, sent forth to the South China Sea to conduct commercial fishing research, docked in the Pratas Islands to set up artificial reefs for fish spawning trials and recruited by the Lamay Island to help release Japanese eel stocks into the wild. Other regular duties included monitoring wild grey mullet populations, establishing artificial reefs and spawning beds and researching marine aquaculture practices in Taiwanese territorial waters.
Organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Marshallese Embassy to the R.O.C., the ship transference project was carried out with the COA's assistance. The handover ceremony, which took place at the FRI headquarters in Keelung City on Oct. 11, was attended by President of the Marshall Islands Christopher Loeak and First Lady Anono Lieom Loeak, Marshallese Foreign Minister Phillip Muller, Council of Iroij Representative Heltera Hermios and Marshallese Ambassador to the R.O.C. Phillip Kabua. The Marshallese officials were in Taiwan for the R.O.C. national day celebrations.
Escorting the Marshallese delegation were MOFA Deputy Minister Tung Kuo-yu, R.O.C. Ambassador to the Marshall Islands George T. K. Li and COA Deputy Minister Chen Wen-te. In his speech at the handover ceremony, COA Deputy Minister Chen outlined the progress of agricultural and fishery projects jointly coordinated by the two nations, stating that the Republic of the Marshall Islands has proven to be an invaluable ally. Marshallese territorial waters are also important fishing grounds for Taiwanese trawlers, he added, referencing the mounting number of preferential fishing permits inked between the Marshallese government and Taiwanese fishermen in recent years to reflect the fact that relations have grown stronger and more bountiful than ever. In return, Marshallese Foreign Minister Muller spoke on the behalf of the Marshallese people and thanked the R.O.C. government for its generous gift that will help strength the island's nautical logistics.
Wealth of the Four Seas, soon to be retrofitted as a cargo freight to boost maritime transportation among Marshallese outlying islands, signifies a new milestone in the Taipei-Majuro friendship. In the future, the two diplomatic partners look to strengthen bilateral ties and exchanges in the hopes of promoting growth, progress and prosperity for both nations.