Fisheries Agency Safeguards the Rights and Benefits of Foreign Crew and Imposes Sanctions on Offenders Accordingly.
The Fisheries Agency makes clarifications about a series of reports “foreign crew blood and sweat working conditions” publicized by Apple Daily’s website on June 28. The Agency indicates that one of these reports, Ms. Allison Lee , the Secretary-General of Yilan Migrant Fishermen Union, said there had a dead crew put in the body bag and thrown overboard. According to previous news media, such an incident was disclosed on a Chinese fishing vessel. The Fisheries Agency indicates that if one crew is dead onboard Taiwanese fishing vessel, the corpse will be kept first and the vessel operator or master will notify the neighboring Port State via the emergency notification system. After the fishing vessel reaches the port, the cause of death of that crew will then be ascertained by the judiciary of the Port State. Therefore, the Agency expresses deeply regrets for Secretary-General Li’s remarks and can hardly accept the instances Ms. Lee provided in the report may confuse readers that such events occurred on Taiwanese fishing vessels, which seriously damage the reputation of Taiwan’s fisheries industry.
Concerning the protection of the rights and benefits of foreign crew, the Agency expressed the Regulations on the Authorization and Management of Overseas Employment of Foreign Crew Members, effective since January 20, 2017, had stipulated the specifications for the basic rights and benefits of foreign crew employed overseas, including minimum wage, working hours and insurance. The Regulations were amended on March 20, 2019, requiring the owners or employment agents shall notify the items specified in the employment contract to the crew and provide the crew a copy of the contract. During the period of notification, the employment agents shall record and video recording so as to make sure the foreign crew fully understands that he is going to work for Taiwanese fishing vessel and is aware of the basic rights and benefits stipulated in the above Regulations before the embarkment.
The Agency further illustrates that it has been conducting questionnaire for interviews with crew members when fishing vessels are landing or transshipping in domestic or foreign ports or boarding and inspection at high seas, so as to find out whether the conditions of the Regulations such as living and working conditions and the welfare of foreign crew members have been followed or not. If any suspected violation is found, the Agency will launch investigations and impose sanctions on offenders accordingly or forward the case to Prosecutors Office when a criminal investigation is needed. Furthermore, the Agency has set up a permission system, guarantee bond and review mechanism to strengthen the management of employment agents. The review result on employment agents is also posted on the Agency’s website.
Additionally, the Agency has established leisure centers for the foreign crew in Keelung and Penghu, and subsidized the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan- Seamen and Fishermen's Service Center in Qianzhen and Cijin area to purchase audiovisual studio, water dispensers, and provide free internet services. Shower rooms are also available in the fish market of Keelung, Penghu, Su’ao area and Qianzhen for the foreign crew to take a shower.
Concerning the rights and benefits of crew aboard foreign-flagged fishing vessels invested or operated by Taiwan nationals, the Agency indicates such vessels shall be under the jurisdiction of flag State, the rights and the benefits of crew and relevant labor issues shall be managed by the laws and regulations of the flag State. However, the Agency indicates that whether to restrict Taiwan nationals to invest in or operate fishing vessels flying the flag of nation with poor human rights protection is under careful evaluation by the Agency. As for the issue of return home for foreign crew employed onboard foreign-flagged fishing vessels invested or operated by Taiwan nationals during the epidemic prevention period, the Agency has implemented “Entry Measures for Foreign Crew Employed aboard Foreign Flagged Vessels Invested or Operated by Taiwan Nationals (FOC)” on June 15, 2020, allowing foreign crew on FOC vessels arriving in Taiwan can depart for another country after completing the 14-day home quarantine.
The Agency lastly comments that the allegations made by NGOs are usually lack of the precise date and location of the suspected violation or whether the alleged violations happened onboard Taiwanese fishing vessels or not are uncertain, which result in difficulty for launching investigations. The Agency again urges NGOs to provide clear and tangible evidence so the Agency can launch investigation to fight against violators. The Agency reiterates that its determination to impose sanctions on those offenders accordingly.
Contact Point: Deputy Director-General Mr. Kuo-Ping Lin