Four central and local government agencies have been censured by the Control Yuan after it found that lax management of a Taiwanese fishing boat led to an international incident that undermined the nation’s reputation.
Control Yuan members Wang Mei-yu (王美玉) and Wang Yu-ling (王幼玲) on Thursday released an investigative report into the incident, in which the Fuh Sheng No. 11, a Kaohsiung-based deep-sea fishing vessel, was detained in South Africa last year.
The report blamed the Council of Agriculture (COA) and its Fisheries Agency, as well as Kaohsiung’s bureaus of marine and labor affairs, for the way that the Fuh Sheng was allowed to operate, particularly in relation to its treatment of foreign crew members.
Photo: Chung Li-hua, Taipei Times
The members said that the council and the Fisheries Agency had gone through the motions, failing to determine the facts or respond adequately when the Fuh Sheng was targeted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) after a complaint was filed by Indonesian fishermen last year.
The Fuh Sheng was detained in Cape Town on May 17 for contravening the UN’s 2007 Work in Fishing Convention, following complaints by Indonesian crew members to the local Indonesian consulate about onboard working conditions.
The vessel was the first in the world to be detained for such a reason, tarnishing Taiwan’s image, the report said.
After the ship was detained, two inspectors from the South African Maritime Safety Authority identified a long list of problems, including “lack of documentation, poor accommodation, insufficient food for fishers, and poor safety and health conditions onboard,” the ILO said at the time.
“Only two of the crew members had work agreements and there was not even a crew list,” the ILO said, adding that the crew complained of having to pull in catches by hand and carry heavy loads to the fish storage facility, while some said that they wanted to leave the vessel.
The ship’s owner was required to address the problems identified by the inspection, which was carried out under the provisions of the convention.
The convention, which took effect in November 2017, seeks to protect the 38 million workers in the industry worldwide, the ILO said.
Wang Mei-yu, who is posted in Cape Town, interviewed Indonesian and Myanmar crew members from the Fuh Sheng on May 25 last year.
However, interviews with Burmese crew members were aborted, while those with Indonesian fishers were conducted with the help of translation apps, as the COA official failed to source interpreters.
The interviews were not held one-on-one as required, which reflected lax management on the part of the COA, Wang Mei-yu said.
The investigation uncovered a host of problems that included monthly wages of less than US$450, a lack of clean water and insufficient sleep time for the crew, all in contravention of Taiwanese law, she said, adding that another COA official was guilty of dereliction of duty for failing to promptly handle the matter.
The lax approach resulted in the July 17 ILO report on the case, which seriously tarnished Taiwan’s image, she said.
Two officials at Kaohsiung’s maritime and labor affairs bureaus were also found to have mismanaged foreign fishers’ employment contracts, because the Fuh Sheng had a foreign crew member as captain rather than a Taiwanese when sailing from Mauritius to Taiwan, Wang Mei-yu said.
After a detailed investigation following the vessel’s return to Taiwan at the end of July last year, the ship’s owner on Nov. 28 was fined NT$3.75 million (US$121,132) for abusing foreign crew and catching protected sharks.
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