Crew abandoned in Taiwan uses ship hull to cry for help

Crew members working on an officially unidentified small cargo ship have been stranded onboard for nearly six months in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. They have now resorted to painting messages on the hull of their vessel as a cry for help.

The messages (in English) include “We crazy here” and “Let Us Go Home”

The Chaplin for the international maritime charity Stella Maris stepped in to provide aid to the eight Indonesian crew members after the captain of the vessel asked for assistance.

Father Ansensius Guntur said that he had received a text message appealing for assistance. Which said that the crew was depressed and going “stir crazy” and that the ship’s owner had failed to respond or pay the crew.

The 242ft, Hong Kong-managed general cargo ship they were working on reportedly lost power off the coast of Taiwan on February 23rd. The Coast Guard provided assistance towing the ship to a dock in Kaohsiung. Under Taiwan’s Covid travel restrictions reports indicate that the crew has been forced to remain aboard the ship now for more than five months, and have been ignored by the ship’s owner. Unpaid, the crew has taken to painting messages on the hull of their ship. Images supplied by the charity show the words “Let us go home. We crazy here.”

The unidentified cargo ship was reported as registered in Togo and managed by a shipping firm based in Hong Kong, but that information would appear to be out-of-date. As to the identity of the vessel, a possible candidate is the Jian Ye, (previously Tian Chen 9), listed by the International Labour Organization as Togo flagged but listed on MarineTraffic as Belize-flagged.

Togo Registry has informed the ILO that “the documents held by this vessel are false and illegal because this vessel has never been registered on a Togolese registry”. That might also mean that the Belize “registration” is suspect.

On May 18th the Hong Kong Marine Department (HKMD) revealed that the HK registered owner Jianfu Shipping Co Ltd of the Jian Ye had dissolved itself from HK Company Registry as long ago as March 21st 2021 and that it no longer existed.

The trail of ownership and flag therefore seems to have run cold. While the one Chinese national on board appears to have been repatriated, the eight Indonesians are abandoned, with no obvious means of returning home.

Taiwan’s Maritime and Port Bureau reported that local organizations had been providing basic assistance to the crew, periodically providing supplies and basic necessities.

The charity Stella Maris is calling attention to the plight of the crew while also coordinating with the local authorities. The Maritime and Port Bureau in Kaohsiung reported that it had been attempting to contact the ship’s owner but that so far the shipping company had not complied with a request for the crew’s back pay or to make arrangements to repatriate the crew to Indonesia. The Port Bureau has asked the shipping company to supply a new crew to relieve the ones onboard and provide travel home.

If the situation does not improve, the Maritime and Port Bureau said that it would meet this month with the National Immigration Agency, Taiwan International Ports Cooperation, and the Indonesian Representative Office in Taipei to discuss plans by which the crew can be sent home.