A Chinese fishing boat and its 18 crew disappeared in the South China Sea shortly after its captain reported pirates had boarded his vessel, Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday.As always, clicking on the map will make it bigger.
The captain of "Qionghai 08099" phoned his family on Thursday morning saying his boat was being robbed by armed pirates after experiencing mechanical problems near the Spratly Islands, a Hainan provincial official was quoted by Xinhua as saying.
Local marine officials from China's southernmost province of Hainan dispatched a coast guard ship and mobilized other fishing vessels to aid in the search.
Captain Xu Demin first called his wife saying a group of unidentified men were robbing his boat. Twenty minutes later Xu phoned a cousin, saying that the robbers had left with his catch of fish, but that another unidentified vessel was approaching.
The family has had no further contact with Xu since the second call, according to the report.
The Spratly Islands are a string of tiny islands in an area that is claimed all or in part by by China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.