Seafarers stopped by police for unauthorised disembarkation

Port of Keelung, Taiwan. Credit: Martina Li

Two seafarers, both Myanmar nationals, made an unauthorised disembarkation from their ship docked at Keelung port in Taiwan. The two men, fearing for their families amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus pandemic, left their ship to make phone calls.

An official from port authority Taiwan International Ports Corporation (TIPC) told SAS that the incident happened around 9:00 am local time on 4 April 2020.

Without disclosing the ship name, the TIPC official said that the port’s police officers, who were on patrol, spotted the seafarers around the checkpoint stationed in the North Container yard.

The seafarers explained that they were concerned about their families in Myanmar, but could not stay in touch with them as their ship lacked internet connection. They then decided to make a phone call once their ship arrived in Keelung.

SAS was told that the seafarers did not exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms and were handed over to the ship agent to be returned to the vessel, without any further action taken.

Liao Caizhen, chief of the Keelung Harbour Police Department, said that shipowners and ship agents are responsible for complying with local laws, and that they face punishment for any breaches.

In line with many countries, Taiwan has suspended shore leave or crew change for foreign seafarers in order to prevent the transmission of imported COVID-19 cases.