The crew of a Chinese vessel who have been detained in Palau since 12 December will be released without charge, Palau’s attorney general said on Wednesday.
The vessel and its 28 crew were in Palau’s territorial waters, harvesting sea cucumber earlier this month.
The chief of staff at the Ministry of Justice, Earnest Ongidobel, said the vessel would be stripped of all its small boats, engines, and fishing equipment and ordered to leave the country.
“They will be given just enough fuel and food supplies for a one way trip home,” Ongidobel said, adding that the vessel would be escorted out of Palau waters by a patrol boat.
Ongidobel said the authorities would also confiscate US$20,000 in cash, which he said the crew used in an attempt to bribe officials who intercepted them at Helen Reef.
Prior to their departure, the detained vessel and crew members were required to quarantine for more than 14 days as part of Covid-19 restrictions. Palau remains free of the virus.
Ongidobel said detaining the vessel and its crew for any longer than that would not be financially beneficial for the nation.
He also said attempts to get a response from the vessel’s owner, or the Chinese authorities, had been futile.