The government should raise berthing rates for foreign commercial vessels to prevent them from leaving dead bodies in Taiwan and potentially skirting COVID-19 prevention rules, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Wei-chou (林為洲) said in a written report.
Foreign vessels carrying corpses in nearby waters often ask to enter Taiwan’s ports for humanitarian reasons, which local personnel found difficult to reject, Lin wrote in the report, directing his comments at the Ministry of Transportation and Communications.
The number of such cases has increased in the past few years, turning to turn Taiwan’s ports into funeral parlors while burdening local emergency resources, he wrote.
Photo courtesy of the Keelung City Government
When there are criminal matters associated with the situation, the vessels often stay for an extended period to allow for an investigation, creating a potential loophole to quarantine efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, he added.
In 2019, Port of Keelung officials were accused of being inhumane for refusing to receive a foreign cruise ship that carried the corpse of a Mongolian sailor who had died suddenly more than 12 hours earlier, the lawmaker wrote.
In January, the crew of a Cook Islands-registered oil tanker said that a sailor needed medical treatment and asked to moor at Taiwan’s port, he wrote.
However, an investigation found that the crew had lied about the nature of the incident, as it was later discovered that the sailor had been stabbed to death by another crew member, Lin said.
As the case initially occurred in international waters and Taiwan had no jurisdiction over the foreign vessel, nearly 20 Chinese and Burmese sailors had to remain in the Port of Keelung for the Lunar New Year holiday, he said.
China, Japan and South Korea charge high berthing fees to prevent such cases, he said, urging the transportation ministry to review its ports management and submit a report in a month.
In response, the ministry said it would increase inspection of vessels that call at local ports for emergency reasons.
Vessel owners or captains that are caught lying about their port calls would face fines of NT$100,000 to NT$500,000, as stipulated by articles 23 and 67 of the Commercial Port Act (商港法), and the vessels would be ordered to leave immediately, it said.
After mooring in Taiwan in January, the Cook Islands vessel is still banned from leaving, the ministry said, adding that it would proceed on the matter according to prosecutors’ directions.
The ministry has formulated pandemic prevention regulations for sailors and vessel crew, including standard measures of applying for entry, to prevent potential loopholes in pandemic prevention, it said.
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