Myanmarese seamen 'dumped' in Kaohsiung seeking help: workers' group

10/02/2020 09:04 PM
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Kaohsiung Harbor. CNA file photo
Kaohsiung Harbor. CNA file photo

Sydney, Oct. 2 (CNA) Some 24 Myanmarese seamen are seeking help through the International Transport Workers' Federation, claiming that a Taiwanese shipping company underpaid them and "dumped" them in Kaohsiung, according to the federation's branch in Sydney.

The 24 seamen, 19 of whom have finished their 14-day quarantine in Kaohsiung, reported their underpayment to the federation and were subsequently forced to disembark from vessels operated by Taipei-based Hsin Chien Marine Co. (新健海運) in the southern port city in the past month, said Matt Purcell, an assistant coordinator of the workers' group in Sydney.

Purcell told CNA that the seamen said that the shipping company had been deducting up to US$700 from their monthly wages for the past six months.

While in quarantine in Kaohsiung, the seamen said they received threatening letters from a shipping agency handling affairs on behalf of Hsin Chien, which said that if they miss flights arranged for them to return to Myanmar, they will be put on "the wanted list," said Purcell, who showed a letter he received from the seamen.

According to Purcell, the Australian branch of the workers' group "has long known about this company (Hsin Chien) and was aware of their systematic cheating processes in regards of all their crews."

When asked about the incident, Taiwan's Maritime and Port Bureau said it was told by the shipping agency that the 24 Myanmarese were left in Kaohsiung because their contracts with Hsin Chien have come to an end.

The shipping agency has chartered a flight for 19 of the seamen to return to Myanmar on Oct. 4, while another flight has been arranged for Oct. 25 for the remainder, who are still in quarantine, according to the bureau's South Maritime Affairs Center.

The center also said that it is looking into the claimed dispute between the seamen and the shipping company.

(By Lionel Chiou, Hou Wen-ting, Wang Shu-fen and Kay Liu)

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