MAST iconMaritime Archaeology Sea Trust

Looting multiple WW2 vessels in the South China Sea, including of HMS Prince of Wales & Repulse 2022-23 - UPDATED Briefing Note (July 2023)

Thanks to the Maritime Observatory1 we have been able to track the Chuan Hong 68 (CH68), a Chinese purpose-built salvage barge, in its desecration of the wrecks of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse 60 miles east off the Malaysian coast. Further investigation has revealed many more wrecks including British and Japanese sites were also targeted in 2022, activities that went undetected until now. We estimate it spent about 92 days in total working over the Royal Navy wrecks, enough time to do enormous damage, and releasing a vast oil slick up to 10km long.

Below is a short note designed to give a good grasp of activities by this vessel over the last 18 months.


This vessel was one of a several salvage barges that had previously targeted WWII era wrecks in the Java Sea area from about 2012-17. In that time 5O+ historic naval wrecks belonging to the US, UK, Australia, Dutch and Japanese were damaged or destroyed completely, to worldwide condemnation. Chuan Hong 68 is known to have targeted three Japanese wrecks off Malaysia in Jan 2017 (destroyer IJN Sagari & troop transports Hiyoshi Maru and Katori Maru) among others. Some of the barges were detained by Indonesian and Malaysian Authorities at the time, but all were eventually released. Chuan Hong 68 is the first we have seen to return to the area.