Authorities move to help free cargo ship crew stuck in Kaohsiung port

09/18/2022 09:38 PM
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The Belize-registered cargo ship Uniprofit. File photo courtesy of the Maritime Port Bureau
The Belize-registered cargo ship Uniprofit. File photo courtesy of the Maritime Port Bureau

Kaohsiung, Sept. 18 (CNA) The crew of a cargo vessel docked at Kaohsiung Harbor who have been unable to leave the vessel for more than six months can finally be allowed to leave Taiwan next week, after the Maritime Port Bureau (MPB) filed a request with a local court to appoint a ship manager.

On Sept. 8, the MPB applied for the court to appoint a ship manager, followed by a ruling on Sept. 13 that the private Taiwanese contractor should appoint such a manager within 10 days, at which time the crew will be allowed to leave the country, an official from the bureau told CNA on Sunday.

The Belize-registered cargo ship Uniprofit ran aground near Taitung County's Fugang fishing port on March 8, and was towed to the Port of Kaohsiung where it has since remained due to an unpaid debt owned by the ship owner to a private Taiwanese boat towing company.

The Kaohsiung District Court previously granted an application by the contractor for the provisional seizure of the ship when its owner failed to pay the NT$20 million cost of refloating the vessel.

According to Taiwan's laws and port regulations, all 16 crew members of the ship are not permitted to leave the vessel and daily necessities have to be provided by shipping agency companies.

In addition, the vessel is banned from leaving Taiwan before a settlement is reached between the ship owner and contractor.

However, since June crew members have hung white cloth protest banners from the vessel demanding the payment of unpaid wages and the right to return home, while Taiwan's authorities have banned them from leaving the ship.

On Saturday, the Chinese captain surnamed Yang (楊) disembarked the ship alone with his luggage, reportedly after a quarrel with other crew members, but was immediately detained by police in accordance with the Immigration Act.

Yang was then transferred to the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office, before prosecutors ordered he be returned to the vessel later that day.

According to the law, only four crew members are legally required to stay on board the ship subject to the provisional seizure request, with the others permitted to leave Taiwan within 24 hours. However, the 16 crew members -- 11 Chinese and 5 Indonesians -- have been unable to agree who should remain, the official said.

(By Tsai Meng-yu, Tseng Yi-ning and Evelyn Kao)

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