Taiwan working with the international community to protect the human rights of foreign crew
In October 2021, the Fisheries Agency of Taiwan received a report from the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) which accused the operators of the fishing vessel Wasana No. 66 of withholding crew’s wages, obstructing crew from confirming the contents of their work contracts, and carrying out verbal abuse. After conducting an investigation, the Fisheries Agency found that the flag state of Wasana No. 66 is Sri Lanka, and confirmed that the foreign vessel is not operated by Taiwanese nationals, meaning that the government of Taiwan has no jurisdiction over Wasana No. 66. However, in order to uphold the human rights of those in the fisheries sector, the Fisheries Agency has requested that Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs forward the case to the government of Sri Lanka for further investigation, and has also replied to the EJF, advising it to contact Sri Lankan authorities regarding the status of the case.
After receiving allegations by the EJF that the operators of Wasana No. 66 engaged in forced labor practices, including by withholding crew’s wages, obstructing crew from confirming the contents of their work contracts, asking crew to pay security deposits, forcing crew to do work not set forth in their contracts, carrying out physical and verbal abuse, providing inadequate food and water to crew, and depriving crew of sufficient rest hours, the Fisheries Agency immediately launched an investigation into the claims. This investigation found that the vessel had previously been a Panama-flagged ship named Chun Kuo 66 invested in and operated by Taiwanese, but that it was sold in January 2019, at which time its Taiwanese investment and operation permits were revoked. Moreover, after examining the information provided by the EJF, it was found that the crew members interviewed as part of the report were employed between September 2019 and November 2020, during which Wasana No. 66 was no longer invested in or operated by Taiwanese nationals. In addition, there are no records of the vessel having entered any ports in Taiwan since 2019. Accordingly, the Taiwan government no longer has jurisdiction over Wasana No. 66, but in order to uphold the rights and privileges of the crew involved, the Fisheries Agency has asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to forward the case to Sri Lanka, the current flag state of the vessel.
The Fisheries Agency emphasized that, as a member of the international community, Taiwan follows the norms and standards laid out in the Work in Fishing Convention of the International Labour Organization (also known as C188), and that, upon receiving any report concerning violations of crew labor standards, the Taiwan government, in the spirit of fairness and equity, investigates in accordance with C188. Because the vessel at issue in the EJF report is under the jurisdiction of Sri Lanka, the Taiwan government has asked the EJF to refer further inquiries on the status of the case to the Sri Lankan government. In addition, to facilitate such investigations and to protect the rights and privileges of fishing vessel crew members, it is also hoped that the groups and individuals who advocate for the welfare of foreign national crew members provide concrete and clear evidence when raising allegations of such rights violations. Taiwan will continue to work together with the international community to protect the rights of those employed in the fisheries sector.
Contact Person: Deputy Director-General Kuo-pin LIN