Only six cases of seafarer abandonment in Taiwan since 2018

Taiwan’s Maritime Port Bureau (MPB) has said that there have been only six cases of seafarer abandonment by foreign commercial vessel operators reported in Taiwan since 2018, of which only two remained unresolved.

The MPB’s statement came after local media reported recently that cases of seafarer abandonment in Taiwan increased sharply last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MPB said that the six cases in Taiwan were either caused by vessel problems or salary disputes between the sailors and their employers. Among the cases, one happened in 2018, three in 2019 and the remaining two in 2020.

Four of these cases were settled and the vessels involved had already left Taiwan, the MPB said.

Of the two cases that remained unresolved, one involved a Belize-registered cargo ship, which has been stuck at Taipei Harbour since October 2019, and the other a Sierra Leone-registered cargo ship, which was stranded in waters off Taiwan’s western county of Changhua in December 2019.

A media report said the eight sailors aboard the Belize-registered cargo ship had remained unpaid since 2020 and that they were surviving with one electric fan on the ship and limited food twice a month provided by a man claiming to be a friend of the ship’s owner.

Responding to that report the MPB said, of the eight seafarers, four were recently placed in a quarantine hotel, while the others remain on the ship. The MPB said it was currently coordinating with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) to ask the ship owner and its insurance company to settle the salary dispute. It said that it was also studying the possibility of punishing the ship owner using Taiwan’s Commercial Port Law.

In the case of the Sierra Leone-registered cargo ship, the MPB said it had been freed and was now being repaired at Kaohsiung Harbour. The MPB said that it was currently arranging a flight for its two Myanmarese crew members to return home.

The MPB said that the repatriation expenses of abandoned seafarers were supposed to be paid by their employer, or the flag state of the ship, or the countries of the seafarers’ origin, in that order.

The MPB said that it has established a notification mechanism to help seafarers abandoned in Taiwan by their employers and to demand those employers fulfil their legal obligations.