Following the public highlighting on 16 January by Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) of the case of two exploited Indonesian fishers of the Chinese-owned, Fijian-flagged He Shun 38 (No.00359) vessel, both crew are reported as being repatriated to Indonesia on Thursday 28th January with some wages paid. Further, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has reported to HRAS that the Fiji Fishing Industry Association (FFIA) has de-listed the He Shun from MSC-Certification.
From the outset of this reported incident, HRAS outreached to the Indonesian Embassy, the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji, the MSC, and Lloyd’s Register through their agent, Acoura Marine Ltd. The charity was unable to locate the owners.
Following exposure of the case, Lloyd’s Register issued a statement on 20 January, in which it highlighted that: “We are currently in discussion with FFIA as part of our investigations into these reports and will take any further action as required under the relevant MSC Fisheries Certification Process.”
On 22 January, the MSC responded to the HRAS request for due investigation.
“Thank you for bringing to our attention the case of the exploitation of the HE SHUN 38 crew in Suava, Fiji. It has taken some time to clarify details. The Fiji Fishing Industry Association (FFIA), the client group for the certification, were unaware of the situation prior to the HRAS press release and, upon notification, have worked tirelessly to address the crew welfare concerns. Following a meeting the FFIA held this week with all relevant parties (including the affected crew members), these concerns have now been addressed and we can now confirm the following:”
“We understand from FFIA that wages have been paid both to the crew in Fiji and the family – The Indonesian Embassy have confirmed that the families share of wages have been paid to the crew’s families in Indonesia.”
“Repatriation is underway: The FFIA are organising repatriation, there is flight arranged from Nadi to Jakarta (via Port Moresby), travel arrangements are now being made to get the crew members on the plane.”
“The FFIA has delisted the He Shun 38 from the MSC certificate, which means it’s no longer eligible to fish for MSC-certified catch. They also confirmed that this vessel has not fished in the MSC-certified fishery for over a year – the last occasion being October 2019.”
HRAS welcomes the prompt investigation and action to delist the vessel concerned from MSC-certification, though this does not guarantee that such exploitation may not continue in the fleet and supply chain. The charity continues its liaison with MSC staff in respect of this case and in relation to the wider issue of better awareness of worker exploitation in supply chains.
The apparent nine months of outstanding wages do not yet appear to have been paid in full. Meantime, HRAS continues to constructively engage with the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji maintaining direct dialogue.
Reported today (26 Jan) in the Fiji Sun, both fishers will be on a repatriation flight home this week. Nonetheless, key questions remain despite reporting that the fishers were “alleged to have been exploited”, that the HRAS report was “exaggerated”, that salaries and compensation have been paid and that the issue has be “resolved”.
HRAS stands by its reporting of the case supported by local humanitarian ship visitors and direct interactions with the crew. It notes the public admission that
“Upon enquiry, the embassy learnt that they had not been paid nine month’s salary and were not given food.”
HRAS Response to the Fiji Sun
“Such matters cannot be allowed to be hidden behind corporate veils, or be avoided because fishers are somehow perceived as lesser human beings.”
HRAS issued a response on 25 January (2300 GMT) to today’s Fiji Sun article, which is subject to update.
“Human Rights at Sea was first made aware of the issue of two abandoned Indonesian seafarers through local sources on 11 January 2021. Local humanitarian ship visitors attended the vessel and sought detail of their abandonment. This was confirmed and a report immediately passed to MSAF.
Human Rights at Sea spoke directly to the CEO MSAF in what was a constructive dialogue. We additionally contacted MSC and the Lloyd’s Register agent in the UK. We received written assurances that the issue was being urgently investigated.
At first instance, the charity was informed that wages had not been paid for 12 months. We sought clarification of this assertion.
We additionally contacted the Indonesian Embassy by email as a matter of priority offering to be fully engaged and support their work.
At the time of writing, we are informed that the vessel, the He Shun 38 has now been delisted by the FFIA from the MSC certificate which means it is no longer eligible to fish for MSC-certified catch. We welcome this decisive action. We had asked MSAF that the vessel be arrested and the crew paid from its sale as the first lien to be settled.
The fact that the fishers in question had not been paid for nine months and had not had food according to your article, is entirely unacceptable and highly exploitative. Such matters cannot be allowed to be hidden behind corporate veils, or be avoided because fishers are somehow perceived as lesser human beings.
Human Rights at Sea welcomes all local actions taken to urgently address this pernicious behaviour. We reiterate that any form of exploitation should not be tolerated, nor allowed to become normalised owner and/or management behaviour towards any maritime worker.”