Six cases of seafarer abandonment by foreign commercial vessel operators have been reported in Taiwan since 2018, two of which remain unresolved, the Maritime and Port Bureau said on Sunday.
According to the International Maritime Organization, “abandonment occurs when the shipowner fails to fulfil certain fundamental obligations to the seafarer relating to timely repatriation and payment of outstanding remuneration, and to the provision of basic necessities of life.”
The six cases were caused by problems with vessels or salary disputes between sailors and employers, the bureau said in a news statement.
One case was reported in 2018, three in 2019 and two last year, the bureau said, adding that no cases have been reported so far this year.
Four of the cases have been settled and the vessels involved have left Taiwan, it said.
Of the two cases that remain unresolved, one involves a Belize-registered cargo ship, which has been stuck at the Port of Taipei since October 2019, and the other involves a Sierra Leone-registered cargo ship, which became stranded off Changhua County in December 2019, it said.
The statement came after local media reported that cases of seafarer abandonment in Taiwan increased sharply last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A separate media report said that the eight sailors aboard the Belize-registered cargo ship have not received their salaries since last year.
They have only one electric fan on the ship and survive on food delivered every two weeks by a man claiming to be a friend of the ship’s owner, the report said.
The bureau said that of the eight sailors, four were recently placed in a quarantine hotel, while the others remain on the ship.
It is coordinating with the International Transport Workers’ Federation to ask the shipowner and its insurance company to settle the salary dispute, the bureau said.
It is also examining the possibility of punishing the shipowner in accordance with Commercial Port Law (商港法), it said.
The Sierra Leone-registered ship has been freed and is undergoing repairs at the Port of Kaohsiung, the bureau said.
The bureau is arranging flights for its two Burmese crew members to send them home, it said.
The repatriation expenses of abandoned seafarers are supposed to be shouldered by their employer, the flag state of the ship or the countries of the seafarers’ origin, in that order, the bureau said.
It has established a notification mechanism to help seafarers abandoned in Taiwan by their employers and to demand that the employers fulfill their legal obligations, it added.
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