Nine Taiwanese indicted for deep-sea fishing boat abuse

04/20/2022 09:55 PM
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Officials board the Da Wang as part of Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office
Officials board the Da Wang as part of Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office's investigation. Photo courtesy of a reader

Taipei, April 20 (CNA) Nine Taiwanese have been indicted on charges relating to the forced labor and physical abuse of foreign crew members on an offshore fishing vessel, the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office said on Wednesday.

Prosecutors found that crew members aboard the Vanuata-flagged Da Wang (大旺), owned and operated by the Kaohsiung-based Yong Feng Fishery Ltd., were subject to beatings, insults, confinement, and threats to withhold or deduct wages while working in the Pacific Ocean in 2019 and 2020.

The vessel's captain, surnamed Lin (林), the first mate, surnamed Liang (梁), and seven others were indicted for their role in the suspected abuses of more than 20 Indonesian and Filipino workers, prosecutors said.

According to prosecutors, there were incidents in which the captain and the first mate forcibly threw the clothes of crew members into the ocean despite freezing cold weather.

In addition, for ship meals, pork was used as the main dish most of the time, resulting in Muslim workers being forced to eat pork, which their religion generally forbids, to survive.

Prosecutors also found that the first mate was involved in an accident in which a foreign worker fell to the ground after being hit on the back of his head.

The foreign worker was found dead days after the accident and an autopsy performed when the vessel arrived at Suva Harbour Fiji determined that he had died of pulmonary edema, prosecutors said.

Although the cause of the death of the foreign worker was not directly linked to being hit on the head, the accident prompted 19 foreign crew members to quit because they couldn't stand the physical abuse to which they were subjected aboard the ship, prosecutors said.

Prosecutor Liao Wei-cheng (廖偉程) said that although Taiwan had one of the world's largest commercial fishing fleets, there was a lack of protections afforded to migrant fishermen employed in offshore fishing, which had left them vulnerable to exploitation.

Exploiting foreign crew workers on board a long-distance fishing boat was tantamount to "lawlessness," Liao added.

The abuse on the Da Wang first came to light in "Seabound: The Journey to Modern Slavery on the High Seas," a report issued by Greenpeace Southeast Asia in 2019, which detailed migrant worker abuses on the high seas, including excessive overtime of more than 20 hours per day and the death of a worker.

In July 2020, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued an order denying the entry of goods caught by the Da Wang into the U.S., pending an investigation into allegations of forced labor and physical abuse against its crew members.

The U.S. agency then determined in January 2022 that the ship had used forced labor in its operations and said that its investigations had found evidence of all 11 of the International Labor Organization's forced labor indicators on the vessel.

(By Hung Hsueh-kung and Shih Hsiu-chuan)


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