Myanmarese seafarers seek ITF’s help after ship capsizes in Taiwan

Credit: ITF

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has told Safety at Sea that it is helping 12 Myanmarese seafarers to get their outstanding salaries after the group was repatriated from Taiwan on 4 November 2019.

The group’s ordeal began after its manned vessel, Hoi Shun, started suffering water ingress off Keelung, Taiwan, owing to unidentified causes. Two of the crew members panicked and jumped overboard.

The 2004-built 4,730 dwt general cargo ship, which capsized soon after, is believed to have been sailing from mainland China to Taiwan.

After receiving a distress call, Taiwan’s National Rescue Command Center immediately informed the Ministry of National Defense and the National Airborne Service Corps. Subsequently, a helicopter arrived at the scene, airlifting the two seafarers who were in the water. Another helicopter rescued the other 11 seafarers, including the captain.

Although Taiwanese media reports named the vessel as Ji Shun, ITF consultant John Wood told SAS that the vessel’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) number, 8663781, corresponds to the ship Hoi Shun.

The captain of the ship suffered an injury and was flown back to Myanmar earlier, while the other 12 crew members were stuck in Taiwan and claimed that they had not been paid for more than a month.

Through an ITF affiliate in Myanmar, the seafarers contacted Wood for help.

Wood said that the Taiwanese immigration authorities would not extend the crew’s visas and on 4 November, they were flown back to Myanmar. He added that the airfare was paid by the shipowner’s agent.

Wood said, “Their owed wages have still not been paid. Any claims that the wages owed to the crew have been paid to the crewing agency in Myanmar are totally and provably false. From what I have been given to understand, the agent concerned is not a registered agent. He’s what is referred to as being a ‘street broker’, [and] the crew members concerned actually had to pay him to obtain their employment on this vessel. This is an illegal practice.”

IHS Markit Maritime and Trade’s data shows that Hoi Shun is owned by a Hong Kong company, NSK Marine (HK). However, when SAS contacted the company, a woman who answered denied that the company is a shipowner.

The Independent Federation of Myanmar Seafarers’ general secretary, Aung Kyaw Linn, said that the seafarers have gotten in touch with him and the matter had been brought up. However, Linn said that it is hard to act against unauthorised crewing agents.