Malaysia Holds Chinese Ship, Suspected of Looted British Warship Wrecks

Malaysian maritime authorities announced on Monday, May 29, 2023, that they have discovered artillery shells believed to be from World War II on a Chi
The British ship, HMS Prince of Wales (Royal Navy).
The British ship, HMS Prince of Wales (Royal Navy).


In a significant development, Malaysian maritime authorities announced on Monday, May 29, 2023, that they have discovered artillery shells believed to be from World War II on a Chinese-flagged bulk carrier. The ship was detained by Malaysia over the weekend for anchoring in its waters without permission. This discovery comes amidst reports that Chinese vessels have targeted two British warship wrecks, namely HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, located off the coast of Malaysia.

Concerns Over Vandalism of British Warship Wrecks

It is worth noting that both British warships were sunk by Japanese torpedoes in 1941, just three days after the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Following reports of illegal salvage activities, the Royal Navy Museum expressed concerns last week about the apparent vandalism for personal gain concerning these two shipwrecks. According to Reuters, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) stated that a vessel registered in Fuzhou, China, carrying 32 crew members, failed to present the necessary anchoring permits during a routine inspection in the waters of Johor state in southern Malaysia on Sunday, May 28, 2023. After further examination, authorities found scrap metal and artillery shells on the ship. These shells could be linked to a separate seizure by the police at the Johor dock last week, involving a number of unexploded World War II-era artillery pieces.

"MMEA believes they might have been taken from HMS Prince of Wales," stated the agency.

MMEA added that they are collaborating with the Malaysian Department of National Heritage and other institutions to identify the discovered ammunition.

Investigating the Looted Artifacts

The Malaysian authorities are taking this incident seriously and are actively investigating the origin and intent behind the presence of these artifacts on the Chinese vessel. The recovery of artillery shells potentially connected to the looting of the wrecked British warships raises significant concerns about the preservation of maritime heritage and the protection of historical sites.

The Importance of Preserving Maritime Heritage

Maritime heritage sites hold invaluable historical and cultural significance, serving as tangible reminders of past conflicts and the sacrifices made by those who fought for their nations. Such wrecks are often considered war graves and are protected under international laws and agreements. The looting and vandalization of these wrecks not only undermine the preservation of historical artifacts but also disrespect the memory of those who lost their lives during the war.

Cooperation and International Efforts

In light of these recent events, it is crucial for nations to come together and strengthen international cooperation to combat illegal salvage activities and protect maritime heritage. Collaborative efforts between countries, such as Malaysia, China, and the United Kingdom, can help establish stricter regulations, increase surveillance, and enhance the enforcement of existing laws. Additionally, raising awareness about the significance of maritime heritage preservation among the public can foster a sense of responsibility and respect towards these historical sites.


The discovery of artillery shells on the Chinese ship detained in Malaysian waters, along with reports of targeted looting of British warship wrecks, raises serious concerns about the preservation of maritime heritage. The international community must unite in taking decisive action to prevent the illegal salvage of historical artifacts and protect these significant sites. By safeguarding our maritime heritage, we ensure that future generations can learn from the past and honor the sacrifices made by those who came before us.

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