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8 men sentenced to 3 years in jail for enslaving fishermen

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Five Thai fishing boat captains and three Indonesians were sentenced Thursday to three years in jail for human trafficking in connection with slavery in the seafood industry.

The suspects were arrested in the remote island village of Benjina last May after the abuse was revealed by The Associated Press in a report two months earlier. The men were tried separately in Tual, an island in southeastern Maluku province, about 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) east of Jakarta.

The three-judge panel also ordered the defendants to pay fines of about $12,250 each or serve two more months in jail. In addition, the Thai captains — Youngyut Nitiwongchaeron, Boonsom Jaika, Surachai Maneephong, Hatsaphon Phaetjakreng and Somchit Korraneesuk — have to pay a total of $67,800 in compensation to their crew members.

“They all have been proven guilty of violating the anti-human trafficking law,” said Edi Toto Purba, who led the panel. “They deserve the jail sentences as well as the fine.”

He gave one week for the prosecutors, who had sought heavier sentences, as well as the defendants to appeal the verdict. Indonesian prosecutors had demanded prison sentences of up to 4 1/2 years for the five Thais and Indonesian Hermanwir Martino, and 3 1/2-year sentences for two other Indonesians, Yopi Hanorsian and Muklis Ohoitenan. They also demanded compensation ranging from $3,750 to $26,000 for the crew members.

Thirteen fishermen from Myanmar testified under protection of Indonesia’s Witness and Victim Protection Agency. They told the court they had been tortured, forced to work up to 24 hours a day and not paid. They also said they were locked in a prison-like cell in a compound owned by fishing company Pusaka Benjina Resources, which has since been shut down. Martino and Ohoitenan worked for the company, and Hanorsian was known as the “enforcer” among the fishermen, who accused him of beating and torturing them in front of an Indonesian flag until they collapsed.

Some workers were angered by the outcome.

“They should be sentenced more because they tortured many fishermen for years. It’s not fair for us,” said Win Ko Naing, 26, who was enslaved in Benjina for almost six years. He has been following the case closely from Myanmar, but did not testify at the trial.

“They will never pay us compensation because they know how to get away from punishment,” he added. “I will never forget what they did to many people over many years. Three years imprisonment is too easy for them. ”

The AP investigation found that thousands of poor migrant fishermen, mostly from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, were recruited in Thailand and brought to Indonesia using fake travel documents where they were subjected to brutal labor abuses. Some had been enslaved for years or decades. The AP found some men locked in a cage and saw others calling out for help over the railing of their trawler. A company graveyard with dozens of bodies buried under fake names was also located. The Indonesian government carried out a dramatic rescue in Benjina in April, just over a week after the report ran.

More than 2,000 men were freed and sent home last year as a result of the investigation, which traced slave-caught seafood to some of the most well-known U.S. grocery stores and pet food brands, including Wal-Mart, Sysco, Kroger, Fancy Feast, Meow Mix and Iams. In addition, U.S. congressional hearings have been held, legislation has been changed, more than a dozen people have been arrested and multi-million dollar seafood cargo ships have been seized.

MSN

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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