Swimming with Sharks

Slave fishing in New Zealand: The File. 

 

Korean fishing boat with secret oil dumping plumbing

 

Michael Field

A South Korean fishing boat has been fined heavily for dumping waste at sea after inspectors found it had hidden piping controlled by a secret switch that allowed it to secretly dump bilge, including oil, into the sea unnoticed, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) says.

It is the second time foreign charter vessel Oyang 75 has been punished recently.

In the latest action, the Christchurch District Court has fined its charter, Southern Storm Fishing Ltd, $10,500 on a charge under the Maritime Transport Act 1994 of failure to notify two harmful discharges to sea.

Southern Storm, who under the act was treated as the owner, made a late guilty plea.

Last year the same vessel was fined more than $420,000 for trawling activities described in court as "arrogant" and "incompetent".

Last year the court also ordered the forfeiture of the Seijo Oyang Corporation's 68-metre stern trawler worth up to US$8 million. That order is under appeal.

Last August MNZ inspectors discovered a concealed piping arrangement aboard Oyang 75 that allowed unfiltered bilge effluent, containing oil, to be discharged directly into the sea when a hidden pump switch was turned on.

The arrangement was hidden under the floor plates of the engine room.

"There was clear evidence that the piping had been used at least twice," MNZ said. 

"While there is a clear legal requirement to notify the MNZ if harmful substances are discharged or escape into the sea, no such notification was made."

Under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships - MARPOL - vessels must use an oily water separator to remove harmful substances from any waste water discharged into the sea.

MNZ Manager Intelligence and Planning Paul Fantham said the rules were clear and they could not allow operators to damage New Zealand's marine environment.

"This is a significant fine and shows that there are serious consequences for those who break the law in this way.

"This sentence sends a clear message that those responsible for the operation of a vessel are also responsible for ensuring they are aware of all aspects relating to discharge of waste."

Oyang 75 could not be charged over the actual discharge of waste because it had to have been charged within six months of the alleged offences. It had not been in port long enough for charges to be laid, so it was convicted of the slightly lesser charge.

Last year Oyang 75 was convicted over fisheries offences which included high grading or dumping lesser value catch overboard.

Its Indonesian crew walked off last year alleging under-payment of wages and physical abuse.

Oyang 75 was bought into New Zealand by Sajo Oyang to replace Oyang 70 which sank in 2010 with the loss of six men, east of Otago.

At the time Oyang spokesman Glenn Inwood, better known for his advocacy of Japanese whaling, invited media aboard, saying it was a model of modern fishing.

The Ministry of Fisheries at the time placed four officers aboard to "up-skill to be more effective managers of New Zealand's world class quota management system," Inwood said.

In a letter to editor in July, Inwood said "during its entire period of operating in New Zealand, Sajo Oyang, its officers and crew and representatives have never been the subject of a prosecution.

"That is a rare accomplishment in an industry as highly regulated as the New Zealand fishing industry and speaks volumes as to the level of commitment that both companies have to compliance with New Zealand fisheries laws. 
"Even some of New Zealand's largest fishing companies cannot boast of a compliance record to this standard," Inwood said.

Oyang 75 was last known to be in the Seychelles.

22 February 2013

 

 

Sanford admit their Indonesian crews underpaid

 

Michael Field

One of the country's biggest fishing companies has confessed its low wage Indonesian fishermen on foreign charter fishing vessels (FCVs) have been underpaid, leaving nearly 100 of the world's poorest workers short $885,000 on current vessels.

But one of the key advocates for cleaning up the industry, says that the total underpayments, across the industry, could reach $13 million.

Auckland based Sanford Fisheries accuses say it was the fault of Indonesian labour agent PT Indah Megah Sari covered up the fact that the money was not reaching the men "because the amounts paid to the families by manning agents were shown as having been signed off by the families."

They were not and no one knows where the money went.

Sanford - whose directors includes National Party president Peter Goodfellow - at the moment use three trawlers owned by Dong Won Fisheries Co Ltd of Seoul and have used others in the past.

Sanford have ordered them and PT IMS to publish a notice in newspapers last week in Jakarta asking for all crew who worked on the boats since June 2009 to May 2012 to contact them so they "can take the rest of salaries caused by missed counting..."

Sanford publicly admitted the problem after Official Information Act (OIA) documents obtained by the Sunday Star-Times revealed the extent of underpayments - something that Sanford had strenuously denied a year ago.

The revelation came as crew walked off one of Sanford's other FCVs in Timaru this week and Parliament passed a first reading of a bill that will outlaw foreign flagged fishing boats here.

Green MP Gareth Hughes hailed the Star-Times in Parliament for its "long campaign trying to highlight injustices" aboard the around 22 FCVs fishing New Zealand's exclusive economic zone while fellow Green MP Steffan Browning spoke of two decades of abuse of FCV crewmen: "The National Party's links with the fishing industry should be looked at."

Slave Free Seas campaigner, Tauranga lawyer Craig Tuck, says Sanford's admission is probably only the beginning in the industry in New Zealand.

"If the extent of the underpayments we are seeing in the Sanford case go across the industry, and it is systematic, the thee amount of underpayment could easily top $13 million," Tuck said.

Allegations around Sanford's boats, the 41-year-old Dong Won 701, 29-year-old 530 and 40-year-old 519, first surfaced last year when Bloomberg Businessweek reported on 28-year-old Indonesian, Yusril (not his real name) who had been working on 519.

His claims of abuse and underpayment attracted international attention and a critical report on New Zealand in the US State Department's human trafficking report.

Major retailers Walmart and Safeways launched investigations into New Zealand fish and Mazzetta Company, the largest US importer of New Zealand fish, wrote to Sanford's managing director, Eric Barratt demanding change if they were to continue to do business with them.

Barratt said they had used agents in Indonesia to find Yusril and had dismissed the claims made. Yusril his wife and family had to go into hiding , fearing for their safety, when manning agents came to his house the day after Bloomberg was published. He blamed other fishing companies, citing Korea's Oyang Corp, for causing damage to New Zealand's reputation.

Sanford's FCVs provided $40 million worth of tariff free fish to Korea a year. New Zealand flagged vessels have to pay up to a 20 per cent tariff.

Amidst concerns that New Zealand fish exports may be blacklisted in the US, Sanford's FCVs were audited for compliance with Codes of Practice by the then Department of Labour.

In a letter on September 18, 2012, Immigration New Zealand wrote to Sanford saying the compliance reports had found "substantial non-compliance".

It said accountancy firm KPMG could not determine whether employees had been paid appropriately and that documentation was "insufficient, missing or written in Korean."

INZ ordered Sanford suspended from the issue of any new visas to crews and were given 30 days to provide evidence they had fixed it.

On October 11, Sanford general manager operations, Greg Johansson, wrote to INZ admitting there were problems with wages with "shortfall and savings" case held by Indonesian agents.

"From investigations it became apparent to Sanford that not all monies remitted by Dong Won to Indonesian agents in the past for crew wages was passed on to the crew's families," Johansson said.

Sanford had told Dong Won to document each serving crewman and worked out around $500,000 was involved. They ordered it placed in a legal trust account along with a "letter of irrevocable instruction" saying the money could only go to individual crew New Zealand bank accounts.

Sanford asked for another $385,000 for previous crews not currently in New Zealand.

Johansson said it was more problematic finding the ex-crews.

"There is no quick fix here; there are a number of difficulties associated with doing this in a robust, transparent and fair manner."

INZ lifted the suspension following the letter.

Sanfords said this week the public notice in Jakarta was part of the process to rectify previous shortfalls.

The say the shortfalls amounted to around $5000 per crewman a year of service when their gross pay was between $70,000 and $80,000 for a two year contract.

Sanford say their initial investigation did not uncover the issue Òbecause the amounts paid to the families by manning agents were shown as having been signed off by the families...

They remain adamant that there was no mistreatment of crews on vessels.

This week 14 of the 35 crew aboard Sanford's 29-year-old factory trawler Pacinui, owned by the Korean company Juahm, walked off in Timaru. A private detective boarded the ship at one point and Sanford only says that the 14 have gone ashore over "management of issues".

Human right advocates involved with the crew say they left because their timesheets were being manipulated to reflect lesser hours than those actually worked.

They claim working conditions and treatment by the Korean officers had not improved.

Last week 21 crew on another FCV, Sur Este 707, walked off in Timaru and are now being cared for by the Salvation Army.

It was chartered by South East Resources (2001) Ltd.

Crews of both Sur Este and Pacinui claim they are being paid less than the minimum wage.

15 February 2013

 

 

 

From: Inquest into the sinking of Oyang 70 in the Coroner's Court, Wellington April 16 to 20, 2012

 

 When a New Zealand ship went to the rescue of a Korean fishing boat, as MICHAEL FIELD reports, they were shocked to find they were rescuing crew who believed they were slaves.

 

An email, written soon after 45 men wererescued from a dark, oil stained ocean, has first the first time offered gritty first-hand evidence of the appalling treatment meted out to crews aboard foreign chartered fishing boats in New Zealand's exclusive economic zone.

It was written soon after a the 38-year-old Korean ship, Oyang 70, had quickly sunk on August 18, 2010, killing five of its Indonesian crew and taking with it Korean skipper captain Hyonki Shin who refused to get off.

In Wellington this week Coroner Richard McElrea held an inquest into the sinking which ended with the striking testimony of a one-time factory hand who rose up through the ranks to be one of New Zealand's top qualified masters, Nelson's Greg Lyall, skippering the Talley's 64-metre stern trawler Amaltal Atlantis.

Within an hour of the sinking, he had his ship over the heavily oil and flotsam strained seat, rescuing 45 fellow seafarers, 740 kilometres off the Otago coast.

And when Sealord’s Ukrainian fishing boat Professor Alexsander would not pick up two bodies because they feared the flotsum would damage their rescue boat, Lyall’s crew did.

McElrae hailed the "striking, remarkable" rescue and said that without Amaltal Atlantis, the death toll would almost certainly have been much higher.

As soon as he had the survivors aboard, and thethree bodies cleaned of oil, Lyall had his people talk to the Indonesian crews - the Korean officers would not talk.

Using Oyang's sole Filipino crewman, Edwin Gonzales, as a translator, they tried to work out what happened hours earlier.

Gonzales told Lyall that they worked 14 hours on and four hours off and sometimes longer on the southern blue whiting grounds near Bounty Island.

Amaltal officers and crew spoke with the Indonesians as they treated survivors.

Each of them noted what they were told and Lyall put them into an email to Talley's in Nelson.

The email was annexed to his evidence.  

An Amaltal officer described only as Paul talked to the Indonesians, learning that those crew with less than two years service earned $200 a trip, those with over two years got $300 a trip (some punctuation and capitalisation corrected).

"Six month on one boat, then go to another boat," Paul reported.

"Food only what they catch (whiting, hoki). 14 hours on, 4 hours off. Some 18 hours on 4 hours off. No bread, no noodles or rice, just fish.

"Crew did not like Korean officers because they treated crew like slaves."

An Amaltal crewman identified as "TJ" was told: "Very bad agency, didn't get paid until contract finished… Koreans always angry at crew. Not always allowed to go toilet during work hours."

Amaltal's Andrea Haliburton said survivors told her they only had fish for meals.

"They were hauling when boat  tipped on side, no power no lights and no alarms, crew decided for themselves it was time to run for the life rafts, most were under water and had to swim to the rafts…."

Indonesians told Casey Seerup that the "told the skipper that something was wrong, skipper didn't care."

Roy: "Big bag kept coming up and boat kept going over, kept hauling."

Another Amaltal crew member Natasha recorded: "Skipper was stupid, last catch was too much. Living conditions were not good."

Alex spoke to a survivor; "Got treated badly, they worked as fast as they could and still got yelled at to work faster. Only had 1 set of work clothes to last for the whole trip."

Leon was told "very stupid, stupid skipper" and Denise told "skipper was bad."

One of the survivors asked Amaltal's Marty if they had found his brother; it was his birthday. He was dead.

Marty told: "Crew.... worried about passports, if they would get paid and families. Our food was very nice. Very grateful for our help."

Corey was told how the crew got to New Zealand.After the passed through Indonesian customs, they were be made to sign a contract.

"From Indonesia they fly to Angola, then Singapore, then Australia," Corey told.

"Not told what country they will be fishing out of. Had only been fishing for a few days.

"Skipper being greedy, too bigger bag. Crew was telling him not to haul."

Corey was told the Indonesians did not get on with the Koreans, and his survivor ended with a touching request: "Wanted to know how to get a job on Amaltal Atlantis."

Amaltal's Denesh got a similar line: "Asking how much we earn on Atlantis. They earnt NZ$300 a month… no alarm, only eat fish they are catching at the time."

Lyall had no doubt the disaster was the fault of the captain: "The fact that the captain went down with the ship shows to me that he knew that what he had done was wrong."

McElrea ended public hearings on Friday but hinted he may reopen them later in the year. Another Korean fishing disaster will also be subject to an inquest. No 1 Insung sank four months after Oyang in the Ross Sea, killing 22 men.

From: Inquest into the sinking of Oyang 70 in the Coroner's Court, Wellington April 16 to 20, 2012

 

Oyang captain knew he did wrong

MICHAEL FIELD

LATEST: A Korean fishing boat master deliberately went down with his sinking boat because he knew he had done wrong, a New Zealand fishing boat skipper has told the Coroner's Court in Wellington today.

 Greg Lyall of Nelson was the captain of the Talley's Fishing trawler Amaltal Atlantis that went to the rescue in 2010 of the crew of the 38-year-old Korean boat Oyang 70 which went down off the Otago coast.

Coroner Richard McElrea is conducting an inquest into the sinking which saw the captain Hyonki Shin go down deliberately with the ship after he tried to load a 120 tonne net catch. Five Indonesiancrew also died.

Lyall told the inquest that after he rescued the surviving crew an English speaking Filipino crew member Edwin Gonzales told him that the deck crew were yelling at the captain not to bring the net aboard as it was too big and the vessel already had a lot of fish aboard.

"The fact that the captain went down with the ship shows to me that he knew that what he had done was wrong," Lyall told the court.

"The captain kept hauling it on the deck. Edwin said it was not safe, the captain want fish, not worry about the crew ,we do not like captain…

Lyall said the captain was standing on the bridge with no life jacket on and arms folded and not wanting to get off.

He said he spoke with the survivors.

 "We were not able to communicate with the Korean officers as they spoke no English at all. I noticed a very distinct separation between the Korean officers and the result of the crew. They did not mix with or communicate at all with us or the crew whilst on board the vessel.

Coroner McElrea congratulated Lyall on the rescue of 45 survivors, calling it a stunning achievement.

Earlier Coroner McElrae suppressed parts of statements made by the Indonesian widows of the dead after lawyers for the Korean owners objected

Tauranga lawyer Craig Tuck, who is acting for families of the five Indonesia sailors killed, sought to have statements from the Indonesian families read on the last day of the public hearing.

A lawyer acting for the Korean owners and charterers of the ship, Bruce Squire, objected to the statements being read and added that statements in them were being made for publicity purposes and could be proven wrong.

He told Coroner McElrea that if he allowed the evidence to be given, then he wanted the information they contained to be suppressed so that Oyang and charterer Southern Storm Fishing (2007) Ltd could respond.

"Any publicity that does arise from it can be balanced by a rebuttal," Squire said.

Tuck said he was presenting the statement of victims.

"They are authentic, realistic, genuine; it doesn't need to be edited," he said, adding the victims families had no opportunity to say anything to date.

Coroner McElrea said in inquests statements from families were common with family members often simply standing in court and talking about the person who had died. He believed it was a statement rather than formal evidence.

"I take this as a statement from the family, rather than as evidence," the coroner said.

He ruled that the family statements could be read out later today but two paragraphs were to be suppressed from publication.

He said the prohibition applied to publication within reports on the coroner, but added they could be published in another context.

The hearing continues with Maritime NewZealand safety inspector Peter Dryden continuing to give evidence about hisinspection of Oyang 70 a month before it sank.

He wrote on his report at the time "vessel floats".

The term has been criticised by other maritime experts.

"With hindsight, I can see that it would be possible to misinterpret my words," he told the court.

He used the term to mean there was no signs of water coming into the vessels and wanted to show that all watertight doors and water freeing arrangements were checked.

"There is nothing flippant or offhand intended by that comment."

From: Inquest into the sinking of Oyang 70 in the Coroner's Court, Wellington April 16 to 20, 2012

Indonesian family statements suppressed

MICHAEL FIELD

A coroner investigating the deaths of six men in a fishing boat sinking has suppressed parts of statements made by the Indonesian widows of the dead after lawyers for the Korean owners objected,saying the statements were being made for "publicity purposes".

Unusually, Coroner Richard McElrea, hasruled that the suppression order applies only within the context of reporting on his inquest but can be published in "other contexts".

He is investigating the sinking of 2010sinking of the 38-year-old foreign charter vessel (FCV) Oyang 70 which saw the captain Hyonki Shin go down deliberately with the ship after he tried to load a 120 tonne net catch.

Tauranga lawyer Craig Tuck, who is acting for families of the five Indonesia sailors killed, sought to have statements from the Indonesian families read on the last day of the public hearing.

A lawyer acting for the Korean owners and charterers of the ship, Bruce Squire, objected to the statements being read and added that statements in them were being made for publicity purposes and could be proven wrong.

He told Coroner McElrea that if he allowed the evidence to be given, then he wanted the information they contained to be suppressed so that Oyang and charterer Southern Storm Fishing (2007) Ltd could respond.

"Any publicity that does arise from it can be balanced by a rebuttal," Squire said.

Tuck said he was presenting the statement of victims.

"They are authentic, realistic, genuine; it doesn't need to be edited," he said, adding the victims families had no opportunity to say anything to date.

Coroner McElrea said in inquests statements from families were common with family members often simply standing in court and talking about the person who had died. He believed it was a statement rather than formal evidence.

"I take this as a statement from the family, rather than as evidence," the coroner said.

He ruled that the family statements could be read out later today but two paragraphs were to be suppressed from publication.

He said the prohibition applied to publication within reports on the coroner, but added they could be published in another context.

The hearing continues with Maritime NewZealand safety inspector Peter Dryden continuing to give evidence about hisinspection of Oyang 70 a month before it sank.

He wrote on his report at the time "vessel floats".

The term has been criticised by other maritime experts.

"With hindsight, I can see that it would be possible to misinterpret my words," he told the court.

He used the term to mean there was no signs of water coming into the vessels and wanted to show that all watertight doors and water freeing arrangements were checked.

"There is nothing flippant or offhand intended by that comment."

The court will also hear from Greg Lyall, captain of the Talley's Fishing trawler Amaltal Atlantis out of Nelson which rescued all the survivors of the sinking.

From: Inquest into the sinking of Oyang 70 in the Coroner's Court, Wellington April 16 to 20, 2012

Michael Field

A marine safety inspector who checked a Korean fishing boat a month before itsank has told the Coroner's Court he would have been prepared to go sea on it.

CoronerRichard McElrea is investigating the deaths of six men who died when the 38-year-old foreign charter vessel (FCV) Oyang 70 sank off Otago on August 18, 2010.

Maritime New Zealand safety inspector Peter Dryden inspected the ship in Dunedin on July 5 and reported "vessel floats".

The term has been criticised by other maritime experts.

"With hindsight, I can see that it would be possible to misinterpret my words," he told the court.

He usedthe term to mean there was no signs of water coming into the vessels and wanted to show that all watertight doors and water freeing arrangements were checked.

"There is nothing flippant or offhand intended by that comment."

Mr Dryden said over his career he had detained 41 ships including five FCVs for various infringements.

"In terms of FCVs that I have seen, I would say that (Oyang) was at the mid-range to higher end in terms of her seaworthiness."

She was"rough" but because she was a working ship.

"When I conduct an inspection of this sort, I ask myself the question 'would I beprepared to sail on this vessel as it is on this day?' I can honestly say that the answer to that question on 5 July 2010 would have been 'yes'."

He said the ship did not sink due to water-tightness on the ship.

"She sank because the crew pulled too big a bag of fish on board. I believed that this caused her to become completely unstable."

Mr Dryden said he genuinely believed there were no safety issues.

"I believe it was poor decisions on the part of the ship's master and bridge team that led to the sinking."

Eearlier a Oyang's shore agent criticised the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) saying its view of how the vessel sank was based on slim evidence and supposition.

"The safety culture on Oyang 70 was to allow routine violation of rules on good seamanship," TAIC said.

Oyang agent Pete Dawson of Lyttelton's Fisheries Consultancy Ltd (FishCon) told the inquest TAIC's report contained inaccuracies and omissions.

"Criticism of Sajo Oyang's maintenance of the vessel is based on slim evidence and supposition," Dawson said.

"I do not believe that the vessel maintenance was substandard or that it was acontributing factor to the loss….

"Unfortunately, a lack of proper information, inaccurate assumptions and a lack of opportunity to correct inaccuracies in the TAIC report have led to criticisms of the vessels owners and their representatives as having failed to maintain the vessel and its onboard systems. Those criticisms are unfounded."

The inquest has heard that Oyang's skipper, Hyonki Shin,deliberately went down with his ship, and five Indonesians crew were killed.

Evidence has been given that Shin was an angry, unapproachable man and that the sinking was his fault.

Mr Dawsontold the inquest today that Shin was reasonably approachable.

"Like most Koreans I have dealt with he was respectful of authority.

"He also appeared to me to be conscientious, diligently carried out instructions and procedures and appeared to be a competent manager of his vessel."

Mr Dawson said he had never heard a single complaint raised by crew of any nationality.

The public hearings are expected to finish in Wellington tomorrow (Friday).

From: Inquest into the sinking of Oyang 70 in the Coroner's Court, Wellington April 16 to 20, 2012

 

Oyang agent attacks accident commission

Michael Field

A ship's agent responsible for the doomed fishing ship Oyang 70 has criticised the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) saying its view of how the vessel sank was based on slim evidence and supposition.

CoronerRichard McElrea is holding a week long inquest into the 2010 sinking of the Korean ship Oyang 70, with the deaths of six men.

TAIC, which refused to release their full report and refused to allow their staff to give evidence to the inquest, said Oyang 70 had marginal stability when it left Dunedin on its last voyage.

"The safety culture on Oyang 70 was to allow routine violation of rules on good seamanship," TAIC said.

Oyang agent Pete Dawson of Lyttelton's Fisheries Consultancy Ltd (FishCon) told the inquest TAIC's report contained inaccuracies and omissions.

"Criticism of Sajo Oyang's maintenance of the vessel is based on slim evidence and supposition," Dawson said.

"I do not believe that the vessel maintenance was substandard or that it was acontributing factor to the loss….

"Unfortunately, a lack of proper information, inaccurate assumptions and a lack of opportunity to correct inaccuracies in the TAIC report have led to criticisms of the vessels owners and their representatives as having failed to maintain the vessel and its onboard systems. Those criticisms are unfounded."

The inquest has heard that Oyang's skipper, Hyonki Shin,deliberately went down with his ship, and five Indonesians crew were killed.

Evidence has been given that Shin was an angry, unapproachable man and that the sinking was his fault.

Dawson told the inquest today that Shin was reasonably approachable.

"Like most Koreans I have dealt with he was respectful of authority.

"He also appeared to me to be conscientious, diligently carried out instructions and procedures and appeared to be a competent manager of his vessel."

Dawson said he had never heard a single complaint raised by crew of any nationality.

The public hearings are expected to finish in Wellington tomorrow.

Yesterday an Oyang official, Oh Gwan Yeol, appeared as a lawyer representing the Indonesian families, Craig Tuck, tried to ask questions about the wages of the crew and whether Shin received catch bonuses.

Tuck saidthe families wanted to know what had happened to the crew wages and he added the questions also went to the nature of the culture aboard Oyang 70 and the state of mind of the captain when confronted with a 120 tonne oversized catch.

Wage conditions for the crew said it was "a critical factor on how they were being managed on that vessel."

Oyang charterer Southern Storm Fisheries' lawyer Bruce Squire objected to the questions.

"It is obviously being pursued for collateral reasons."

Lawyer Graeme Christie of marine classification society Lloyd's Register told the court that media had reported that the Indonesian widows had received Accident Compensation benefits so the questions of their wages were not relevant to an inquest.

CoronerMcElrea agreed saying the line of questions was outside the terms of the Coroner Act and he prohibited them being put to the Korean witness.

Mr Tuckpressed to have questions of skipper bonuses put to Yeol.

Mr Squire said repeated that the captain's motives could only be speculation and repeated the family lawyer was pressing the issue "manifestly for collateral purposes.

"You ought not to let your inquest be misused in this way."

wyer Graeme Christie of marine classification society Lloyd's Register told the court that media had reported that the Indonesian widows had received Accident Compensation benefits so the questions of their wages were not relevant to an inquest.

CoronerMcElrea agreed saying the line of questions was outside the terms of the Coroner Act and he prohibited them being put to the Korean witness.

Mr Tuckpressed to have questions of skipper bonuses put to Yeol.

Mr Squire said repeated that the captain's motives could only be speculation and repeated the family lawyer was pressing the issue "manifestly for collateral purposes.

"You ought not to let your inquest be misused in this way."

The coroner agreed saying the motive of the master could only be speculation.

From: Inquest into the sinking of Oyang 70 in the Coroner's Court, Wellington April 16 to 20, 2012

 

Michael Field

For the first time a Korean official has appeared to answer questions about the fatal 2010 sinking of one of their fishing boats, but a coroner ruled he could not be asked about crew wages.

Coroner Richard McElrea is holding a week long inquest into the sinking of Oyang 70, owned by Sajo Oyang of Korea, and chartered by Oyang's New Zealand company, Southern Storm Fishing (2007) Ltd.

The Korean owners refused any public appearancesince the sinking in which Oyang's skipper, Hyonki Shin, deliberately went down with his ship, and five Indonesians were killed.

An Oyang official, Oh Gwan Yeol, who is now operations manager of Southern Storm, appeared in the witness box, sweatingheavily.

A lawyer representing the Indonesian families, Craig Tuck, tried to ask Yeol questions about the wages of the crew and whether Shin received catch bonuses, saying the questions went to the nature of theculture aboard Oyang 70 and the captain’s state of mind when confronted with a 120 tonne oversized catch.

Crew wages were "a critical factor on how they were being managed on that vessel."

Southern Storm lawyer Bruce Squire objected: "It is obviously being pursued for collateral reasons."

Lawyer Graeme Christie of marine classificationsociety Lloyd's Register told the court that media had reported the Indonesian widows had received Accident Compensation benefits so wage questions were not relevant to an inquest.

Coroner McElrea agreed saying wage questions were outside the terms of the Coroner Act.

Mr Tuck pressed to have questions of skipper bonuses put to Yeol.

Mr Squire said repeated that the captain's motives could only be speculation and repeated the family lawyer was pressing the issue "manifestly for collateral purposes.

"You ought not to let your inquest be misused in this way."

The coroner agreed saying the motive of the master could only be speculation.

Yeol told the court that Oyang 70 complied with all the relevant regulations as it sailed out of Dunedin on its fatal voyage.

Sajo Oyang had 72 vessels worldwide and took a proactive approach to vessel maintenance and safety.

"In the nature of fishing work, the vessels often look a little tired, but they are well maintained," he said.

He said he had no reason to believe that Captain Shin was anything other than a competent mariner.

"I am surprised by the poor practices that the reports say were adopted by Capt Shin during Oyang 70's last voyage," he said, saying there were no indications of deficiencies by him.

"It is a sad thing that six of the crew died when the Oyang 70 foundered and it was a shock to me that Capt. Shin and his officers made such poor decisions."

During his evidence Yeol said the "ship's husband" on behalf of Sajo Oyang was Lyttelton firm Fisheries Consultancy (FishCon) who were agents.

FishCon operations manager Russ Barron said he was aware that in the cast of two other Oyang vessels, the crew had walked of 75 and 77 was under admirality arrest and had lost its fishing licence.

Mr Tuck attempted to deal with crew conditions,asking how often crew bedding would be laundered.

Mr Barron said he believed it had been done twice in 2009.

Earlier, seagoing mariner and fishing boat captain, Allan Dillon, said the captain's management was of serious concern.

"It is astounding that his knowledge was so lacking that he didn't comprehend the situation the Oyang 70 was in," he said.

The former skipper of the research ship Tangaroa, Andrew Leachman, said he could not understand how Shin and his officers did not feel "their ship was in a tender state" even before the fishing began.

He said that Shin had put out his largest net even as the ship's factory was congested with earlier catch of southern blue whiting. That was seriously imprudent.

"I would suggest that Captain Shin wanted his net in the early evening as this is often when (whiting) school up into large aggregations."

When the net came up Bosun Lee realised it was a huge catch and asked First Officer Park to dump it.

He instead called the captain from his bunk and the captain decided to keep pulling it in.

"Once that operation was commenced the fate of the vessel was sealed," Leachman said.

From: Inquest into the sinking of Oyang 70 in the Coroner's Court, Wellington April 16 to 20, 2012

 

Korean official finally fronts over fatal ship

MICHAEL FIELD

LATEST: An official of a large South Korean fishing company has made the first public statement over the sinking in 2010 of their ship Oyang 70 off the Otago coast, with the loss of six crew.

Sajo Oyang Corp official Oh Gwan Yeol (CORRECT:Yeol) was this afternoon appearing before Coroner Richard McElrea who is holding a week long inquest into the sinking.

Its captain,Korean Hyonki Shin, deliberately went down with the ship and five Indonesian crewmen died. Only three bodies were recovered.

"I am sure all regularly requirements were met by our New Zealand vessels," Yeol said in his evidence, the first public statement by the company over the sinking.

Yeol said Oyang 70 meet all regulations as it left Dunedin on its doomed voyage.

He said Sajo Oyang had 72 vessels and took a proactive approach to vessel maintenance and safety.

"In the nature of fishing work, the vessels often look a little tired, but they are well maintained," Yeol said.

In all his dealings with him, he had no indication that Shin was anything other than a competent mariner.

"I am surprised by the poor practices that the reports say were adopted by Capt Shin during Oyang 70's last voyage," he said.

There were no indications of deficiencies prior to the foundering, and I never received any indication of concern from his officers or crew."

Had he known of problems he would have taken steps to address them.

"It is a sad thing that six of the crew died when the Oyang 70 foundered and it was a shock to me that Capt. Shin and his officers made such poor decisions," Yeol said.

"There were no deficiences in any member of the crew that were apparent to me before the accident occurred; if any problems had been apparent, I would have taken steps to rectify them."

He has yet to face cross-examination for lawyers representing the families of the dead Indonesians.

Earlier today independent marine experts blamed the skipper for the sinking.

Seagoing mariner and fishing boat captain, Allan Dillon, said the captain's management was of serious concern.

 "It is astounding that his knowledge was so lacking that he didn't comprehend the situation the Oyang 70 was in," he told the court.

"There appears to be a significant lack of appreciation by the crew of the risks they faced onboard the Oyang 70."

Dillon said he could not understand why Shin had left Dunedin with "slack" fuel tanks - meaning they were only partially full and the liquid could move, affecting the centre of gravity.

Dillon said he would never had done that and would have insisted the tanks were "pressed up" meaning completely fill.

He could not understand how Shin did not appreciate who delicate Oyang 70 was and how marginal its condition was

"I would constantly monitor how the vessel responded to the sea conditions, how her responses altered when we were hauling a net in, and when she was towing," he said.

"It is hard to communicate how well seafarers become at 'feeling' their ship, but it is usually the first indicator of a problem on a fishing vessel….

"It is my opinion that Capt. Shin did not appreciate the delicate situation that Oyang 70 was in."

The inquest is into its third day and while the family for the five dead Indonesian crewmen are represented in court, no Koreans have attended.

An official of Southern Storm (2007) Ltd, the Oyang Corp company that time-charted the doomed ship, Oh Gwan Yeo, is scheduled to appear as a witness this afternoon.

The former skipper of the research ship Tangaroa, Andrew Leachman, earlier today told the he could not understand how Shin and his officers did not feel "their ship was in a tender state" even before the fishing began.

"It is my opinion that the cause of this tragedy was an accumulation of bad judgments and imprudent actions."

He said that Shin had put out his largest net even as the ship's factory was congested with earlier catch of southern blue whiting. That was seriously imprudent.

Evidence had already shown that the electronic monitors that checked the quantities of fish going into the net were not working. This meant the crew had no idea what they were catching or the size.

"I would suggest that Captain Shin wanted his net in the early evening as this is often when (whiting) school up into large aggregations."

When the net came up Bosun Lee realised it was a huge catch and asked First Officer Park to dump it.

He instead called the captain from his bunk and the captain decided to keep pulling it in.

"Once that operation was commenced the fate of the vessel was sealed," Leachman said.

"In my opinion it was fatally flawed by Captain Shin to pull a 120 ton bag of fish onto the trawl deck of an already tender vessel.

"In my opinion the stability of the vessel was compromised because of the excessive weight in the code end and cod head. Recovery of the cod end should not have been attempted."

Leachman suggested that instead of bring the net up, Shin should have reduced speed and sent out a boat with crews to go to the net behind the boat and cut away lines and zippers.

"A slow steam ahead would have eventually flushed out the catch."

Leachman said the safety culture aboard Oyang 70 was not impressive.

Yesterday afternoon another witness Robert Leyden, principal surveyor for  ship classification society Germanischer Lloyd NZ, was critical of Maritime New Zealand (MNZ).

"It is also clear that (MNZ) are in the process of trying to address, what would appear to be, an endemic failure of both the current safe ship management system, and the system of inspectionscarried out by maritime safety inspectors to identify vessels that pose a serious risk to those onboard and to our environment," Leyden said.

Leyden said the sinking was the fault of the master.

He said Shin had failed to ensure that the vessel had sufficient stability, had failed to react in any  professional manner when it must have been "obvious to him that the vessel was in grave danger of capsizing”.

From: Inquest into the sinking of Oyang 70 in the Coroner's Court, Wellington April 16 to 20, 2012

 

More blame heaped on Korean captain

MICHAEL FIELD

LATEST: Another expert maritime witness has blamed the dead skipper of the Korean fishing boat Oyang 70 for its 2010 sinking in which he and five others died.

Coroner Richard McElrea today has heard from a seagoing mariner and fishing boat captain, Allan Dillon, who said management of captain, Hyonki Shin, was of serious concern.

"It is astounding that his knowledge was so lacking that he didn't comprehend the situation the Oyang 70 was in," he told the court.

"There appears to be a significant lack of appreciation by the crew of the risks they faced onboard the Oyang 70."

Dillon said he could not understand why Shin had left Dunedin with "slack" fuel tanks - meaning they were only partially full and the liquid could move, affecting the centre of gravity.

Dillon said he would never had done that and would have insisted the tanks were "pressed up" meaning completely fill.

He could not understand how Shin did not appreciate who delicate Oyang 70 was and how marginal its condition was

"I would constantly monitor how the vessel responded to the sea conditions, how her responses altered when we were hauling a net in, and when she was towing," he said.

"It is hard to communicate how well seafarers become at 'feeling' their ship, but it is usually the first indicator of a problem on a fishing vessel….

"It is my opinion that Capt. Shin did not appreciate the delicate situation that Oyang 70 was in."

The inquest is into its third day and while the family for the five dead Indonesian crewmen are represented in court, no Koreans have attended.

An official of Southern Storm (2007) Ltd, the Oyang Corp company that time-charted the doomed ship, Oh Gwan Yeo, is scheduled to appear as a witness this afternoon.

The former skipper of the research ship Tangaroa, Andrew Leachman, earlier today told the he could not understand how Shin and his officers did not feel "their ship was in a tender state" even before the fishing began.

"It is my opinion that the cause of this tragedy was an accumulation of bad judgments and imprudent actions."

He said that Shin had put out his largest net even as the ship's factory was congested with earlier catch of southern blue whiting. That was seriously imprudent.

Evidence had already shown that the electronic monitors that checked the quantities of fish going into the net were not working. This meant the crew had no idea what they were catching or the size.

"I would suggest that Captain Shin wanted his net in the early evening as this is often when (whiting) school up into large aggregations."

When the net came up Bosun Lee realised it was a huge catch and asked First Officer Park to dump it.

He instead called the captain from his bunk and the captain decided to keep pulling it in.

"Once that operation was commenced the fate of the vessel was sealed," Leachman said.

"In my opinion it was fatally flawed by Captain Shin to pull a 120 ton bag of fish onto the trawl deck of an already tender vessel.

"In my opinion the stability of the vessel was compromised because of the excessive weight in the code end and cod head. Recovery of the cod end should not have been attempted."

Leachman suggested that instead of bring the net up, Shin should have reduced speed and sent out a boat with crews to go to the net behind the boat and cut away lines and zippers.

"A slow steam ahead would have eventually flushed out the catch."

Leachman said the safety culture aboard Oyang 70 was not impressive.

Yesterday afternoon another witness Robert Leyden, principal surveyor for  ship classification society Germanischer Lloyd NZ, was critical of Maritime New Zealand (MNZ).

"It is also clear that (MNZ) are in the process of trying to address, what would appear to be, an endemic failure of both the current safe ship management system, and the system of inspectionscarried out by maritime safety inspectors to identify vessels that pose a serious risk to those onboard and to our environment," Leyden said.

Leyden said the sinking was the fault of the master.

He said Shin had failed to ensure that the vessel had sufficient stability, had failed to react in any  professional manner when it must have been "obvious to him that the vessel was in grave danger of capsizing”.

From: Inquest into the sinking of Oyang 70 in the Coroner's Court, Wellington April 16 to 20, 2012

 

More blame heaped on Korean captain

MICHAEL FIELD

LATEST: Another expert maritime witness has blamed the dead skipper of the Korean fishing boat Oyang 70 for its 2010 sinking in which he and five others died.

Coroner Richard McElrea today has heard from a seagoing mariner and fishing boat captain, Allan Dillon, who said management of captain, Hyonki Shin, was of serious concern.

"It is astounding that his knowledge was so lacking that he didn't comprehend the situation the Oyang 70 was in," he told the court.

"There appears to be a significant lack of appreciation by the crew of the risks they faced onboard the Oyang 70."

Dillon said he could not understand why Shin had left Dunedin with "slack" fuel tanks - meaning they were only partially full and the liquid could move, affecting the centre of gravity.

Dillon said he would never had done that and would have insisted the tanks were "pressed up" meaning completely fill.

He could not understand how Shin did not appreciate who delicate Oyang 70 was and how marginal its condition was

"I would constantly monitor how the vessel responded to the sea conditions, how her responses altered when we were hauling a net in, and when she was towing," he said.

"It is hard to communicate how well seafarers become at 'feeling' their ship, but it is usually the first indicator of a problem on a fishing vessel….

"It is my opinion that Capt. Shin did not appreciate the delicate situation that Oyang 70 was in."

The inquest is into its third day and while the family for the five dead Indonesian crewmen are represented in court, no Koreans have attended.

An official of Southern Storm (2007) Ltd, the Oyang Corp company that time-charted the doomed ship, Oh Gwan Yeo, is scheduled to appear as a witness this afternoon.

The former skipper of the research ship Tangaroa, Andrew Leachman, earlier today told the he could not understand how Shin and his officers did not feel "their ship was in a tender state" even before the fishing began.

"It is my opinion that the cause of this tragedy was an accumulation of bad judgments and imprudent actions."

He said that Shin had put out his largest net even as the ship's factory was congested with earlier catch of southern blue whiting. That was seriously imprudent.

Evidence had already shown that the electronic monitors that checked the quantities of fish going into the net were not working. This meant the crew had no idea what they were catching or the size.

"I would suggest that Captain Shin wanted his net in the early evening as this is often when (whiting) school up into large aggregations."

When the net came up Bosun Lee realised it was a huge catch and asked First Officer Park to dump it.

He instead called the captain from his bunk and the captain decided to keep pulling it in.

"Once that operation was commenced the fate of the vessel was sealed," Leachman said.

"In my opinion it was fatally flawed by Captain Shin to pull a 120 ton bag of fish onto the trawl deck of an already tender vessel.

"In my opinion the stability of the vessel was compromised because of the excessive weight in the code end and cod head. Recovery of the cod end should not have been attempted."

Leachman suggested that instead of bring the net up, Shin should have reduced speed and sent out a boat with crews to go to the net behind the boat and cut away lines and zippers.

"A slow steam ahead would have eventually flushed out the catch."

Leachman said the safety culture aboard Oyang 70 was not impressive.

Yesterday afternoon another witness Robert Leyden, principal surveyor for  ship classification society Germanischer Lloyd NZ, was critical of Maritime New Zealand (MNZ).

"It is also clear that (MNZ) are in the process of trying to address, what would appear to be, an endemic failure of both the current safe ship management system, and the system of inspectionscarried out by maritime safety inspectors to identify vessels that pose a serious risk to those onboard and to our environment," Leyden said.

Leyden said the sinking was the fault of the master.

He said Shin had failed to ensure that the vessel had sufficient stability, had failed to react in any  professional manner when it must have been "obvious to him that the vessel was in grave danger of capsizing”.

From: Inquest into the sinking of Oyang 70 in the Coroner's Court, Wellington April 16 to 20, 2012

 

Master mariner blames Korean captain

MICHAEL FIELD

An accumulation of bad judgments and imprudent actions by the captain led to the sinking, with the loss of six lives, of the Korean fishing boat Oyang 70 in 2010, a master mariner has told the Coroner's Court this morning.

The captain, Hyonki Shin, choose to go down with his ship and five Indonesian crewmen died in the tragedy east of Otago.

The former skipper of the research ship Tangaroa, Andrew Leachman, told Coroner Richard McElrea that he could not understand how Shin and his officers did not feel "their ship was in a tender state" even before the fishing began.

"It is my opinion that the cause of this tragedy was an accumulation of bad judgments and imprudent actions."

He said that Shin had put out his largest net even as the ship's factory was congested with earlier catch of southern blue whiting. That was seriously imprudent.

Evidence had already shown that the electronic monitors that checked the quantities of fish going into the net were not working. This meant the crew had no idea what they were catching or the size.

"I would suggest that Captain Shin wanted his net in the early evening as this is often when (whiting) school up into large aggregations."

When the net came up Bosun Lee realised it was a huge catch and asked First Officer Park to dump it.

He instead called the captain from his bunk and the captain decided to keep pulling it in.

"Once that operation was commenced the fate of the vessel was sealed," Leachman said.

"In my opinion it was fatally flawed by Captain Shin to pull a 120 ton bag of fish onto the trawl deck of an already tender vessel.

"In my opinion the stability of the vessel was compromised because of the excessive weight in the code end and cod head. Recovery of the cod end should not have been attempted."

Leachman suggested that instead of bring the net up, Shin should have reduced speed and sent out a boat with crews to go to the net behind the boat and cut away lines and zippers.

"A slow steam ahead would have eventually flushed out the catch."

Leachman said the safety culture aboard Oyang 70 was not impressive.

Yesterday afternoon another witness Robert Leyden, principal surveyor for  ship classification society Germanischer Lloyd NZ, was critical of Maritime New Zealand (MNZ).

"It is also clear that (MNZ) are in the process of trying to address, what would appear to be, an endemic failure of both the current safe ship management system, and the system of inspectionscarried out by maritime safety inspectors to identify vessels that pose a serious risk to those onboard and to our environment," Leyden said.

Leyden said the sinking was the fault of the master.

He said Shin had failed to ensure that the vessel had sufficient stability, had failed to react in any  professional manner when it must have been "obvious to him that the vessel was in grave danger of capsizing”.

From: Inquest into the sinking of Oyang 70 in the Coroner's Court, Wellington April 16 to 20, 2012

 

Coroner suppresses fisheries evidence

MICHAEL FIELD

LATEST: A line of questions and answersgiven in an inquest into the sinking of the Oyang 70 was suppressed late this afternoon by Coroner Richard McElrea.

He is investigating the 2010 sinking of the Korean foreign charter fishing vessel with the loss of six lives.

At the time of the interim suppression, the witness was Scott Gallacher, deputy director-general of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries who was explaining the fish quota system.

Questions in cross examination opened previously undisclosed information that could be linked to the sinking and Coroner McElrea ordered it suppressed until a legal opinion from the ministry could be obtained.

In questioning Craig Tuck, lawyer for the Indonesian families of the dead and an advocate for a group Slave Free Seas, noted that MAF observers had been aboard Oyang before it sank.

Gallacher noted that the observer, in areport on it, said the fresh water on Oyang "was of dubious quality, often rusty, certainly not drinkable."

The observer was obliged to wash in salt water.

Earlier the principal surveyor for ship classification society Germanischer Lloyd NZ, Robert Leyden, who was ordered by the coroner to prepare a report on the sinking was critical of Oyang's captain Hyonki Shin was killed in the sinking after refusing to leave the bridge.

Leyden said that while the ship had hauled in an extra large net of fish, around 100 tonnes of fish, causing a list of up to 10 degrees, the ship could have easily survived it, were it water-tight.

Shin failed to ensure the vessel had sufficient stability.

Shin had failed to react in a professional manner.

As the ship sank, there was no proper process to get the crew off: "it was basically every man for himself."

He said the list was not significant but the way water got into the factory deck, through open offal chutes, was what sank the ship. Many ships survive much longer with great lists, and be believed Oyang 70 could have.

"The list alone did not sink the vessel."

He said the scuppers in the ship had nofunctioning non-return valves and there was no way to prevent water coming in. There was also no watertight walls or doors to prevent water flooding the engine room.

Earlier the court was told diplomats had protested to the Korean Government over the often appalling state of their fishing ships in New Zealand waters and warned it will become part of negotiations over a free trade deal.

Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) services manager Sharyn Forsyth defended the agency's role in checking on the safety of foreign charter fishing vessels.

She told the court the Oyang did not sink due to watertight integrity issues.

"Even the newest ship, with all watertight doors fully closed, will not remain upright in the event that too great a weight is pulled aboard," she said, referring to earlier evidence that the ship capsized when pulling in an over-full net.

She said MNZ had "taken a number of decisive actions" since the sinking and inspections were now to a "higher standard" than previously.

Checklists had been developed that required a complete physical inspection of the structure of the vessel, all life saving and fire fighting appliances and radio equipment.

A joint ministerial inquiry ordered by the government earlier this year reported that Korean flagged ships were damaging New Zealand's international reputation.

"MNZ has also specifically pursued diplomatic avenues for addressing non-compliant Korean FCVs [foreign charter vessels], including by visiting the Korean registry of vessels and seeking to have issues concerning FCVs included in NZ/Korea trade talks," she said.

Diplomatic sources have said that South Korea wants open access to all New Zealand fisheries under a proposed free trade deal.

In court Forsyth said MNZ had changed its policy toward foreign boats after discovering "Korean authorities might not have been universally requiring ships carrying the Korean flag to be maintained to the standards expected by New Zealand."

Forsyth said a cabinet would next monthlook at a paper on whether the foreign-flagged ships would be allowed to continue operating in New Zealand.

The ministerial inquiry ruled out an immediate switch to New Zealand flagged trawlers, but her evidence hinted at serious consideration of re-flagging.

Twenty foreign-chartered boats from sixcountries operate in New Zealand waters.

"MNZ has also been working more closely with Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and Department of Labour  to share information and coordinate inspections and interventions on FCVs where appropriate."

In cross-examination the lawyer for thefamilies of dead, Craig Tuck, asked if MNZ had a watch list for poor vessels.

She said they did not.

"We don't have something as specific as a watch-list, we do monitor high risk vessels."

The evidence has shown that some of the 51 crew pleaded with the Oyang's captain Hyonki Shin to cut loose an enormous 100-plus tonne catch of southern blue whiting but he continued to bring it aboard, causing the ship to roll over and sink.

Witnesses said he refused a life jacket as the ship was sinking and the navigator said "the captain was hugging a post and crying, after drinking clear liquid from a bottle".

Shin's body was never found.

The bodies of three Indonesian crew members were recovered. Two others were never found.

No Korean officials or members of the Sajo Oyang Corporation, which owned the ship, have attended the inquest.

The Oyang shell company that chartered the ship, Southern Storm of Christchurch, has three New Zealand lawyers present.

Coroner Richard McElrea has also revealed an inquiry was being held into the later sinking of the No. 1 Insung from Korea in the Ross Sea. Twenty-two people died in that sinking.

From: Inquest into the sinking of Oyang 70 in the Coroner's Court, Wellington April 16 to 20, 2012

 

Michael Field

Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) has suffered an endemic failure in managing ship safety and its inspectors are unable to identify vessels that pose a serious risk to crews and the environment, a marine expert claims.

Coroner Richard McElrea is investigating the 2010 sinking of the 38-year-old Korean foreign charter fishing boat (FCV) Oyang 70 with the loss of six lives.

MNZ maritime services manager Sharyn Forsyth told the court Oyang’s condition had nothing to do with its sinking, which, she said, was the result of a list caused by a heavy around 100 tonne catch.

This was criticised by Robert Leyden, principalsurveyor for  ship classification society Germanischer Lloyd NZ, hired to prepare a report for Mr McElrea, who was critical of Ms Forsyth's evidence.

"It is also clear that (MNZ) are in the process of trying to address, what would appear to be, an endemic failure of both the current safe ship management system, and the system of inspectionscarried out by maritime safety inspectors to identify vessels that pose a serious risk to those onboard and to our environment," Mr Leyden said.

A month before it sank, MNZ inspector Peter Dryden had seen the ship and in his report wrote "vessel floats".

Mr Leyden said of Mr Dryden's inspection "that there were serious safety related problems onboard the vessel that were notidentified by him."

He questioned what Mr Dryden “actually saw” when he was on the ship.

Ms Forsyth said she did not accept the criticism of the comment "vessel floats" although she said it was "perhaps rather unfortunate".

She said Oyang did not sink due to watertight integrity issues but was due to the heavy catch.

Mr Leyden said he was at a loss to understand why she would say watertight issues had no role.

It was beyond doubt the heavy load had caused the ship to initially list by 10 degrees but he said "the vessel should have been able to remain afloat indefinitely with this list in the weather conditions prevailing at the time."

Many seagoing ships survived much great lists for weeks at sea.

"The reason (Oyang) did not remain afloat is because it's weather and watertight integrity was not intact."

He said he believed it was "a 100 percent avoidable incident".

Oyang sank because of insufficient stability, the fish on deck and the volume of seawater that flowed in through unmaintainedscuppers and the open offal chutes on the factory deck.

The watertight doors to the engine room were also open.

Mr Leyden said the sinking was the fault of themaster,  Korean Hyonki Shin who was killed in the sinking; “...the master made no effort to abandon ship, even though it was clear the vessel was lost."

He said Shin had failed to ensure that the vessel had sufficient stability, had failed to react in any  professional manner when it must have been "obvious to him that the vessel was in grave danger of capsizing”.

He also failed to ensure any abandon ship procedures took place and it had been a case "basically every man for himself".

The boat's rescue zodiac had no motor and so could not be used to help get people out of the water and round up the lift-rafts.

Mr Leyden was critical of Oyang's charter, Southern Storm (2007) Ltd and its Lyttelton agent, Peter Dawson, who managed the ship's shore operations. He held no marine related qualifications and "he has never been to sea."

Earlier Ms Forsyth defended their role in checking on FCV safety and said MNZ had "taken a number of decisive actions".

Inspections were now to a "higher standard" than previously.

A joint ministerial inquiry ordered by the government earlier this year reported that Korean flagged ships were damaging New Zealand's international reputation.

"MNZ has also specifically pursued diplomatic avenues for addressing non-compliant Korean FCVs, including by visiting theKorean registry of vessels and seeking to have issues concerning FCVs included in NZ/Korea trade talks," she said.

South Korea wants open access to all New Zealand fisheries under the proposed free trade deal.

Ms Forsyth said MNZ had discovered "Korean authorities might not have been universally requiring ships carrying the Korean flag to be maintained to the standards expected by New Zealand."

Forsyth has also said that a paper will be considered by cabinet next month over whether the use of foreign flagged ships will be allowed to be continued. The ministerial inquiry ruled out an immediate switch to New Zealand flagged trawlers, but her evidence hints at re-flagging being seriously considered.

Twenty FCVs from six countries are operating here. Most of them have crews hired from poor Asian nations.

From: Inquest into the sinking of Oyang 70 in the Coroner's Court, Wellington April 16 to 20, 2012

 

NZ warn South Korea officially over itsfishing boats

MICHAEL FIELD

Diplomats have protested to the Korean Government over the often appalling state of their fishing ships in New Zealand waters and warned it will become part of negotiations over a free trade deal, the Coroner's Court has been told.

Coroner Richard McElrea is holding an inquest into the August 18, 2010, sinking of a 38-year-old Korean fishing boat, Oyang 70, in calm conditions near Bounty Island, 740 kilometres east of Otago. Six men were killed.

Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) maritime services manager Sharyn Forsyth has defended their role in checking on the safety of foreign charter fishing vessels.

She told the court Oyang 70 did not sink due to watertight integrity issues

"Even the newest ship, with all watertight doors fully closed, will not remain upright in the event that too great a weight is pulled aboard," she said, referring to earlier evidence that the ship capsized when pulling in an over-full net.

She said MNZ had "taken a number of decisive actions" since the sinking and inspections were now to a "higher standard" than previously.

Checklists had been developed that required a complete physical inspection of the structure of the vessel, all life saving appliances, fire fighting appliances and radio  equipment.

A joint ministerial inquiry ordered by the government earlier this year reported that Korean flagged ships were damaging New Zealand's international reputation.

"MNZ has also specifically pursued diplomatic avenues for addressing non-compliant Korean FCVs, including by visiting the Korean registry of vessels and seeking to have issues concerning FCVs included in NZ/Korea trade talks," she said.

Outside court diplomatic sources have said that South Korea wants open access to all New Zealand fisheries under the proposed free trade deal.

In court Forsyth said MNZ had changed its policy toward FCVs after discovering "Korean authorities might not have been universally requiring ships carrying the Korean flag to be maintained to the standards expected by New Zealand."

Forsyth has also said that a paper will be considered by cabinet next month over whether the use of foreign flagged ships will be allowed to be continued. The ministerial inquiry ruled out an immediate switch to New Zealand flagged trawlers, but her evidence hints at re-flagging being seriously considered.

Twenty FCVs from six countries are operating here. Most of them have crews hired from poor Asian nations.

 "MNZ has also been working more closely with Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and Department of Labour  to share information and coordinate inspections and interventions on FCVs where appropriate."

In cross examination the lawyer for thefamilies of dead, Craig Tuck, asked if MNZ had a watch list for poor vessels.

She said they did not.

"We don't have something as specific as a watch-list, we do monitor high risk vessels."

The evidence has shown that some of the 51 crew pleaded with Oyang's captain Hyonki Shin to cut loose an enormous 120 tonne catch of southern blue whiting but he continued to bring it aboard, causing the ship to roll over and sink.

Witnesses said he refused a life jacket as the ship was sinking and the navigator said "the captain was hugging a post and crying, after drinking clear liquid from a bottle."

Shin's body was never found.

The bodies of three Indonesian crew men – Samsuri, Taefur and Heru Yuniarto – were recovered. Indonesians Tarmidi and Ha'arais were never found.

No Korean officials or members the SajoOyang Corporation, who owned the ship, have attended the inquest. The Oyangshell company that chartered the ship, Southern Storm (2007) Ltd of Christchurch has three New Zealand lawyers present.

 The coroner has also revealed that they have opened an inquiry into the sinking in the Ross Sea, four months after Oyang, of the 31-year-old No. 1 Insung fromKorea, operating out of Bluff,  with the loss of 22 men.

From: Inquest into the sinking of Oyang 70 in the Coroner's Court, Wellington April 16 to 20, 2012

 

Michael Field

A key government safety agency has refused to provide evidence to a Coroner's Court hearing into the sinking of a Korean fishing boat with the loss of six lives.

Coroner Richard McElrea is holding a week long inquest into the August 18, 2010, sinking of a a 38-year-old Korean fishing boat, Oyang 70, in calm conditions near Bounty Island, 740 kilometres east of Otago.

Evidence told of how some of the 51 crew pleaded with Oyang's captain Hyonki Shin to cut loose an enormous 120 tonnecatch of southern blue whiting but he continued to bring it aboard, causing the ship to roll over and sink.

Witnesses said he refused a life jacket as the ship was sinking and the navigator said "the captain was hugging a post and crying, after drinking clear liquid from a bottle."

Shin's body was never found.

The bodies of three Indonesian crew men – Samsuri, Taefur and Heru Yuniarto – were recovered. Indonesians Tarmidi and Ha'arais were never found.

At the first day of the hearing no Koreans were present while advocates for the Indonesian families, Tauranga lawyer Craig Tuck and Daren Coulston, were party to the inquest.

Last week they won Accident Compensation payments for the widows.

Coroner McElrea told the court the Transport Investigation Accident Commission (TIAC) wrote a report on the sinking on behalf of the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal (KMST) who were incharge of the investigation as the ship sank outside territorial waters.

Both reports were obtained by the coroner, but he told the court that TIAC took the view that as the Oyang 70 sank outside New Zealand territorial waters they were not investigating the sinking. They believed KMST were responsible but they provided the Koreans with comments.

Detective Sergeant Michael Ford was directed to read parts of TIAC's report - which has not been released elsewhere - which said Oyang 70 had departed Dunedin with "marginal stability" and it may have worsened as it bought in nets.

"Oyang 70 likely became unstable… when it took on deck about 120 tonnes of fish," TIAC said.

The skipper did not have sufficient knowledge of the vessel's stability.

The scuppers had no non-return valves, meaning water could come in as well as go out and water tight doors were left open

"The safety culture on Oyang 70 was to allow routine violation of rules on good seamanship."

The captain ordered an abandonment of the ship too late, contributing to the loss of lives.

TIAC said efforts by Maritime New Zealand to insist on safe ship management would not be successful without coordinated international effort.

Ford also read out part of the Korean safety report which said Oyang 70 had not had inspection and maintenance and did not have sufficient stability to bring in the big catch.

The Korean report said the "hauling by force" of the net caused the list.

In cross examination Graeme Christie ofLloyd's Register, an insurance underwriter, was critical of the way in which TIAC had behaved.

He said TIAC had interviewed crews and experts had not made their transcripts available to the police.

Ford said TIAC had told Police they would not get information from them.

"It seems odd that this kind of information would not be shared between government departments?' he asked.

Coroner McElrea said TIAC had a view of the law that kept them away from the court and added that it was "very protective of its sources".

Mr Christie responded: "If TAIC wants to sit in the corner and hide, there is nothing I can do about it."

None of the 55 people who survived the sinking gave evidence and instead police took statements, through interpreters, from the Koreans, Indonesians, Filipinos and a single Chinese survivor. Summaries were read into the record by Ford.

The evidence pointed to the captain ordering his biggest net out early in the morning of the sinking and then going to bed.

When the first office began to haul it in, he saw it was the heaviest they ever had and suggested cutting it lose. He lacked authority and woke the captain who came to the bridge and took over.

Police statements say a number of the crew pleaded with the captain to cut the net loose, and some even cried while pleading.

A Filipino electrician told the police the captain was an angry man "and the crew were very scared of him."

Anybody who complained lost his job.

Witnesses spoke of it being "an extremely large net of fish" and "the biggest haul of fish they have ever seen."

Several Korean officers told of "too many fish" and pleaded with the catch to be dumped immediately.

Around 25 metres of the net came up onto the stern trawl deck with another five metres under water. The net slipped and began wedged to the port side of the deck. The Oyang freezers on the port side also contained 112 tonnes of frozen fish, so that the ship sharply heeled to port.

The factory below the trawl deck had chutes open to the sea for offal, and as Oyang keeled over, water flooded the factory and down flooded the engine room.

An Indonesian crewman said the captain tried to keep the net coming.

"The captain was still very concerned at saving the fish."

The helmsman told the police here was ahuge pile of fish on the deck.

"The captain was more interested in catching fish that the boat safety."

A deckhand said even as they kept trying to winch in the net, the vessel listed.

"The fish would not go away, it was too late."

Another crewman said the ship was in a bad way before the sinking. It regularly broke down and a month earlier had drifted at sea for 18 hours without power. It was full of cockroaches.

"Ship looks alright on the outside, leaky and rusty on the inside."

A factory hand told police the ship wasregularly overloaded and fish were often kept on deck, only to be illegallydumped later with more catch.

Coroner McElrea told the court that theinquest would rule on the deaths of the three men whose bodies were found. He had sought to have the inquest widened to the three whose bodies were not found, but the Solicitor General declined to expand the inquest.

The coroner also revealed that they have opened an inquiry into the sinking in the Ross Sea, four months after Oyang, of the 31-year-old No. 1 Insung from Korea, operating out of Bluff,  with the loss of 22 men.

From: Inquest into the sinking of Oyang 70 in the Coroner's Court, Wellington April 16 to 20, 2012

 

Fatal fishing boat always unstable - report

MICHAEL FIELD

LATEST: A Korean fishing boat which sank off the New Zealand coast routinely violated the rules of good seamanship and was probably unstable from the moment it left port, the Coroner's Court hasheard today.

Coroner Richard McElrea, sitting in Wellington, is investigating the deaths of six men killed on August 18, 2010, when a 38-year-old Korean fishing boat, Oyang 70, sank at 4.40 am in calm conditions near Bounty Island, 740 kilometres east of Otago.

McElrea told the court the New Zealand Transport Investigation Accident Commission (TIAC) wrote a report on the sinking on behalf of the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal who were in charge as the ship sank outside territorial waters.

TIAC has refused to release the report and would not provide a witness for the coroner.

Detective Sergeant Michael Ford was asked to read parts of the report to the court.

It said Oyang 70 had departed Dunedin with "marginal stability" and it may have worsened as it bought in nets.

"Oyang 70 likely became unstable… when it took on deck about 120 tonnes of fish," TIAC said.

The report said Oyang skipper Hyonki Shin, who went down with the ship, did not have sufficient knowledge of the vessel's stability.

"The evidence points to there being little or no active day to day management of Oyang 70's stability," TIAC said.

They said after the enormous load came on board the ship listed sharply and water flooded into the vessel's factory. The ship's scuppers had no function non-return  valves, meaning that water from the outside could flood in.

Water tight doors were left opening andthere were also unapproved openings around the ship.

"The safety culture on Oyang 70 was to allow routine violation of rules on good seamanship."

TIAC said efforts by Maritime New Zealand to insist on safe ship management would not be successful without coordinated international effort.

No Koreans are present at the Coroner'sCourt so Ford was also asked to read parts of the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal report.

It said that the ship sank because inspection and maintenance of Oyang 70 was not carried out.

Earlier the court heard that skipper Shin was called to the bridge and told the net was too heavy but it came aboard on the port side and was lowered into a well. The ship immediately began listing heavily, flooding its factory and engine room.

The captain gave the order to abandon the ship.

Ford said the ship's navigator went onto the bridge to give Shin a lifejacket.

He refused it.

"The captain was hugging a post and crying, after drinking clear liquid from a bottle," Ford said.

Later evidence was that he was drinkingwater.

The bodies of three Indonesian men – Samsuri, Taefur and Heru Yuniarto – were recovered. Indonesians Tarmidi and Ha'arais were never found and nor that of Shin.

The inquest heard of a chain of errors,including the failure of a bosun to install new batteries in a device on the net that measures the number of fish entering a net.

Ford said that only as the net was bought in were they aware it was full.

Ford read from a Maritime New Zealand report which revealed the net was full of fish and had become wedged on theport stern.

"Witnesses state it was the biggest haul of fish they have ever seen," Ford read from the report.

Most of the earlier match was stored in the port side of the vessel, increasing the list.

None of the families caught in the tragedy are present at the hearing, but they are represented by a Tauranga lawyer Craig Tuck, who runs a website Slave Free Seas, and advocate Daren Coulston.

Oyang’s tragedy turned the spotlight onto the 27 foreign charter fishing vessels which catch fish worth $650 million a year, the majority of it for Maori iwi quota, in an export industry worth an annual $1.5 billion.

Many of the boats – particularly the Koreans – are old and the around 2500 men from poor Third World nations are beaten and forced to work for days without rest, earning between $260 and $460 a month.

University of Auckland Business School researcher Glenn Simmons, who knows the Oyang survivors and family in Indonesia, says the coroner will answer their questions.

“They want to know how and why, because they do not understand how this tragedy could have happened in

New Zealand, given their perceptions of New Zealand being a modern first world country,” he says.

From: Inquest into the sinking of Oyang 70 in the Coroner's Court, Wellington April 16 to 20, 2012

 

Crying captain went down with ship

MICHAEL FIELD

LATEST: A Korean fishing boat captain whose ship was sinking refused a life-jacket as it went down and disappeared and is now presumed dead.

Coroner Richard McElrea, sitting in Wellington, is investigating thedeaths of six men killed on August 18, 2010, when a 38-year-old Korean fishing boat, Oyang 70, sank at 4.40 am in calm conditions near Bounty Island, 740 kilometres east of Otago.

 Detective Sergeant Michael Ford said police investigations established that a particularly heavy net of southern blue whiting, between 50 and 80 tons, was hauled aboard the ship.

Korean skipper Hyonki Shin was called to the bridge and told the net was too heavy but it came aboard on the port side. The ship immediately began listing heavily, flooding its factory and engine room.

The captain gave the order to abandon the ship.

Ford said the ship's navigator went onto the bridge to give Shin a lifejacket.

He refused it.

"The captain was hugging a post and crying, after drinking clear liquid from a bottle," Ford said.

The bodies of three Indonesian men – Samsuri, Taefur and Heru Yuniarto – were recovered. Indonesians Tarmidi and Ha'arais were never found and nor that of Shin.

The inquest heard of a chain of errors, including the failure of a bosun to install new batteries in a device on the net that measures the number offish entering a net.

Ford said that only as the net was bought in were they aware it was full.

Ford read from a Maritime New Zealand report which revealed the net was full of fish and had become wedged on the port stern.

"Witnesses state it was the biggest haul of fish they have ever seen," Ford read from the report.

Most of the earlier match was stored in the port side of the vessel, increasing the list.

None of the families caught in the tragedy are present at the hearing, but they are represented by a Tauranga lawyer Craig Tuck, who runs a website Slave Free Seas, and advocate Daren Coulston.

No Koreans are present.

Oyang’s tragedy turned the spotlight onto the 27 foreign charter fishing vessels which catch fish worth $650 million a year, the majority of it for Maori iwi quota, in an export industry worth an annual $1.5 billion.

Many of the boats – particularly the Koreans – are old and the around 2500 men from poor Third World nations are beaten and forced to work for days without rest, earning between $260 and $460 a month.

When Amaltal Atlantis arrived in Lyttelton on August 20 with the survivors and three bodies, police closed off the port and the Lyttelton tunnel so that the media would not get to the crews.

The men, surrounded by private security guards, were forbidden from telephoning their families and were taken to the Riccarton Motel in Christchurch and told they could not leave it until put on a plane.

They had only cheap boxed noodles to eat and no fresh clothes.

A Christchurch Indonesian community member got help.

"It was obvious that when we gave them that food that they had not seen rice for a very long time. It was hard for them not to cry when a group of people who never knew them bought them food," the member said.

"Survivor guilt was one thing, you have to deal with that, but the fact they went through the sinking ship and help was not available until the Talley boat came to help," the member said.

"I've never been in a situation like this and when I saw the crew to help out, it was like when you experience life and death, you can see their face, they were distraught and sad.”

A police official spoke of a "deep rage" at how the crew were treated.

"There was no kindness for them; they were treated like animals…. Those poor buggers in that motel room, they were starving. They were given one change of clothes, no money. There food was a lot of boxes of noodles and water they were not given any thing else...."

University of Auckland Business School researcher Glenn Simmons, whoknows the Oyang survivors and family in Indonesia, says the coroner will answer their questions.

“They want to know how and why, because they do not understand how this tragedy could have happened in

New Zealand, given their perceptions of New Zealand being a modern first world country,” he says.

From: Inquest into the sinking of Oyang 70 in the Coroner's Court, Wellington April 16 to 20, 2012

 

Coroner investigating fishing deaths

MICHAEL FIELD

A coroner has begun a week long inquestinto six deaths aboard an decaying South Korean fishing boat that was part of a fleet of foreign flagged ships that have turned into high seas sweatshops on New Zealand waters.

Coroner Richard McElrea, sitting in Wellington, is investigating the deaths of six men killed on August 18, 2010, when a 38-year-old Korean fishing boat, Oyang 70, sank at 4.40 am in calm conditions near Bounty Island, 740 kilometres east of Otago.

The bodies of three Indonesian men – Samsuri, Taefur and Heru Yuniarto – were recovered. Indonesians Tarmidi and Ha'arais were never found and nor was that of the Korean skipper Hyonki Shin.

Three police officers involved in the sinking investigation and rescue efforts are scheduled to give evidence today. They are Detective Sergeant Michael Ford and officers Sharyn Forsyth and Robert Leyden.

None of the families caught in the tragedy are present at the hearing, but they are represented by a Tauranga lawyer Craig Tuck, who runs a website Slave Free Seas, and advocate Daren Coulston.

No Koreans are present.

Oyang’s tragedy turned the spotlight onto the 27 foreign charter fishing vessels which catch fish worth $650 million a year, the majority of it for Maori iwi quota, in an export industry worth an annual $1.5 billion.

Many of the boats – particularly the Koreans – are old and the around 2500 men from poor Third World nations are beaten and forced to work for days without rest, earning between $260 and $460 a month.

When Amaltal Atlantis arrived in Lyttelton on August 20 with the survivors and three bodies, police closed off the port and the Lyttelton tunnel so that the media would not get to the crews.

The men, surrounded by private securityguards, were forbidden from telephoning their families and were taken to the Riccarton Motel in Christchurch and told they could not leave it until put on a plane.

They had only cheap boxed noodles to eat and no fresh clothes.

A Christchurch Indonesian community member got help.

"It was obvious that when we gave them that food that they had not seen rice for a very long time. It was hard forthem not to cry when a group of people who never knew them bought them food," the member said.

"Survivor guilt was one thing, you have to deal with that, but the fact they went through the sinking ship andhelp was not available until the Talley boat came to help," the member said.

"I've never been in a situation like this and when I saw the crew to help out, it was like when you experience life and death, you can see their face, they were distraught and sad.”

A police official spoke of a "deep rage" at how the crew were treated.

"There was no kindness for them; they were treated like animals…. Those poor buggers in that motel room, they were starving. They were given one change of clothes, no money. There food was a lot of boxes of noodles and water they were not given any thing else...."

University of Auckland Business School researcher Glenn Simmons, who knows the Oyang survivors and family in Indonesia, says the coroner will answer their questions.

“They want to know how and why, because they do not understand how this tragedy could have happened in

New Zealand, given their perceptions of New Zealand being a modern first world country,” he says.

From: Inquest into the sinking of Oyang 70 in the Coroner's Court, Wellington April 16 to 20, 2012

 

Michael Field

For the first time, a judicial authority is to investigate conditions aboard the decaying Asian fishing boats that haveturned into high seas sweatshops on New Zealand waters.

Wellington Coroner Richard McElrea will on Monday begin a week long inquest into the deaths of six men killed on August 18, 2010, when a 38-year-old Korean fishing boat, Oyang 70, sank at 4.40 am in calm conditions near Bounty Island, 740 kilometres east of Otago.

The bodies of three Indonesian men – Samsuri, Taefur and Heru Yuniarto – were recovered. Indonesians Tarmidi and Ha'arais were never found and nor was that of the Korean skipper Hyonki Shin (aka Shin Hyeon Gi).

He had left his net out and despite being warned it was too heavy, he hauled it in.

"Those people died because of greed," said one of the investigators who spoke under condition of anonymity.

"When the captain went down with the ship, there was no fight for him…. He stood on the bridge and went down with the ship, because he did it."

The mainly Indonesian crew were scared of him and did not want to argue.

Talley’s Nelson based trawler Amaltal Atlantis went to help Oyang’s 51 crew.

Captain Grey Lyall said the heavy net cause a list that flooded the engine room.

“There were no alarms, no lighting, nothing, and within 10 minutes the boat was gone…."

Oyang’s tragedy turned the spotlight onto the 27 foreign charter fishing vessels (FCVs) which catch fish worth $650 million a year, the majority of it for Maori iwi quota, in an export industry worth an annual $1.5 billion.

Many of the boats – particularly the Koreans – are old and the around 2500 men from poor Third World nations are beaten and forced to work for days without rest, earning between $260 and $460 a month.

University of Auckland Business School researchers Christina Stringer and Glenn Simmons interviewed Oyang survivors and the families of the dead, finding that Oyang 70 had little or no heating, below decks was often wet with little ventilation. Cockroaches and bed bugswere common.

When one of the survivors came aboard Amaltal Atlantis he could not believe what he saw.

“Whoa it was good – clean, beautiful, safe, sweet smelling… (the crew) showed extreme compassion from the highest to the lowest – even the deckhands showed compassion to me, an Indonesian.”

Fairfax Media exposure of conditions on the FCVs prompted the government to create a joint ministerial investigation which earlier this year reported that the Korean flagged ships were damaging New Zealand’s reputation.

Four months after Oyang’s sinking31-year-old No. 1 Insung from Korea, operating out of Bluff, sank in the Ross Sea with the loss of 22 men.

While looking at FCVs’ role, McElrea’s primary focus will be on what caused Oyang to sink.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission will provide its report even though their authority does not extend beyond the old 12-mile territorial water limit, along with one from Robert Leyden, principal surveyor for the ship classification society GermanischerLloyd NZ Ltd.

Oyang 70 was owned by Sajo Oyang Corporation, one of Korea’s biggest fishing companies.

It was chartered by Christchurch based Southern Storm Fishing (2007) Ltd that until the day of the sinking had been 45 percent owned by Oyang.

Without explanation, 11 hours after thesinking, Oyang’s shareholding was transferred to the New Zealand soleshareholder Hyun Choi, since replaced by Soon Nam Oh.

Talley’s CEO Peter Talley said when Amaltal Atlantis went to help, other FCVs ignored the distress.

“They wouldn’t knock off fishing…. We were the only one who that put the man overboard rafts into the sea … we picked up 41 of them… It is a crime, you are supposed to go the aid of anyone in distress but these guys are outside the law,” Talley said.

“Life means nothing to them.”

Maritime New Zealand said of seven FCVs in the area, five "provided active assistance".

When Amaltal Atlantis arrived in Lyttelton on August 20 with the survivors and three bodies, police closed off the port and the Lyttelton tunnel so that the media would not get to the crews.

The men, surrounded by private securityguards, were forbidden from telephoning their families and were taken to the Riccarton Motel in Christchurch and told they could not leave it until put on a plane.

They had only cheap boxed noodles to eat and no fresh clothes.

A Christchurch Indonesian community member got help.

"It was obvious that when we gave them that food that they had not seen rice for a very long time. It was hard forthem not to cry when a group of people who never knew them bought them food," the member said.

"Survivor guilt was one thing, you have to deal with that, but the fact they went through the sinking ship andhelp was not available until the Talley boat came to help," the member said.

"I've never been in a situation like this and when I saw the crew to help out, it was like when you experience life and death, you can see their face, they were distraught and sad.”

A police official spoke of a "deep rage" at how the crew were treated.

"There was no kindness for them; they were treated like animals…. Those poor buggers in that motel room, they were starving. They were given one change of clothes, no money. There food was a lot of boxes of noodles and water they were not given any thing else...."

On the day of the sinking, Southern Storm issued a press statement: “While the cause of the vessel sinking is unknown at this time and the matter is likely to be the subject of official investigation, the owner and charterer have no reason to believe that the sinking was in any way related to the condition of the vessel.”

Lawyer Mike Sullivan of Ocean Law New Zealand, acting for Southern Storm, denied they had mistreated crew, either on Oyang or later in Christchurch.

He said "that all reasonable requests for food and clothing were in fact met; ample food was provided and consisted of substantially more than just noodles."

Researcher Glenn Simmons who knows the Oyang survivors and family in Indonesia, says the coroner will answer theirquestions.

“They want to know how and why, because they do not understand how this tragedy could have happened in

New Zealand, given their perceptions of NZ being a modern first world country,” he says

End of the Inquest file: Inquest into the sinking of Oyang 70 in the Coroner's Court, Wellington April 16 to 20, 2012

 

Politicians take money from fishing companies

Michael Field

Fishing companies say they cannot pay higher wages to crews of foreign charter fishing vessels, but some of them do not mind giving cash to politicians.

The bigger beneficiaries of the largesse come from what was once the party of the workers - Labour.

Electoral Commission returns show that at elections last year Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove accepted $17,500 from Independent Fisheries of Christchurch. Some of their catch came from Oyang 70 and other Korean boats used by Southern Storm (2007) Ltd.

Labour MP Shane Jones received $10,000 from Nelson's Sealord Fisheries, a half iwi owned company that uses Ukrainian boats.

United Fisheries Ltd gave $3000 to Labour MP Megan Woods and $2800 to National MP Nicky Wagner. The Christchurch company uses Korean FCVs recently condemned in a ministerial report for damaging New Zealand's international image.

Talleys, a Nelson company opposed to FCVs, gave $5000 a piece to National MPs Eric Roy, Colin King, Chris Tremain, Joanne Goodhew, Todd McClay, Lindsay Tisch, Chris Auchinvole, and Chester Borrows.

Cosgrove defended the money he got and denied he was overlooking the labour abuses aboard FCVs, saying he fought for worker rights: "always have, always will, a life member of the Labour Party been in since I as 14, I don't have to justify my credentials to anybody."

Independent were a Canterbury company in his electorate.

"Have they been promised anything from me as an opposition MP; no they have not, they have chosen to support me and that is the stone cold end of it."

Sealord CEO Graham Stuart said the industry had been well served by fisheries ministers but Jones was their former chairman; "Sealord believes that having someone with Shane Jones' hands-on experience and deep knowledge of our industry in parliament is beneficial. We did not make any other donations."

Jones said in 2008 he got $10,000 from Talleys and last year got money from Sealord - their position is polar opposite."

There was no quid pro quo for the donation and to suggest anything improper was "wrong in fact and traitorous in terms of misrepresenting the situation".

Jones said Sealord acted properly with respect to its FCV crews and was critical of the Korean boats.

"They are egregious, those instance that are related to the Korean fishing interests, unfortunately they have coloured everything in a negative light," Jones said.

Jones pointed out that Maori Party leader Pita Sharples had received $20,000 from Fletcher Construction Ltd.

Woods said she had accepted the money after visiting United which was headquartered in her electorate.

"They are a large employer here," she said, adding she had not discussed with them the use of cheap Third World fishing boat crews.

16 April 2012

 

 

NZ steps up for widows after trawler tragedy

16 April 2012

The widows of Indonesian fishermen who died when a Korean boat sank in New Zealand waters in 2010 have finally received compensation – not from the vessel's owners or insurers, but from the taxpayer-funded Accident Compensation Corporation.

For some of them, the ACC payment amounts to seven times what they earn in a year.

So far South Korea's Sajo Oyang Corporation, owners of the 38-year-old trawler Oyang 70, have done nothing for the families of five Indonesians killed when the vessel sank in 2010 in calm waters 740km off the Otago coast.

Tomorrow, Wellington coroner Richard McElrea will begin an inquest into the sinking and the deaths of six men – Indonesians Samsuri, Taefur and Heru Yuniarto, whose bodies were recovered; and Tarmidi and Ha'arais, and Korean skipper Hyonki Shin (aka Shin Hyeon Gi), whose bodies were never found.

The deaths of the Indonesian men – who had often been beaten and forced to work for days without rest while earning between $260 and $460 a month – left their families bereft.

University of Auckland Business School researcher Glenn Simmons interviewed Oyang survivors and family of the dead for last year's report Not in New Zealand's waters, surely? which detailed human rights and labour abuses aboard foreign charter vessels.

After the sinking, one of the widows, known as "Eula", worked as a cleaner in Jakarta, earning $4 a day. She went to see the agent who hired her husband because there was insurance and back-pay that would have made a difference to her young child.

"They said her husband's insurance money has not come from the Korean agent, and if you want to get insurance money, you must sleep with the director of the agency for a few days," a friend of Eula's told Simmons.

"After [she came] back, she cried loudly and could not speak. Then she asked where should she complain, whether there is justice and righteousness on earth."

She had helped her husband get a job through an agent on Oyang 70, with promised earnings of US$280 (NZ$332) a month.

To get the job she had to sell her wedding present, a gold necklace.

Under the Accident Compensation Act, foreign charter vessel crew are not normally entitled to ACC payments because they are not tax residents. The charter company – in this case Southern Storm Fishing (2007) Ltd, an Oyang shell company – does not pay ACC levies.

But Simmons and family advocate Daren Coulston campaigned to get the money because Oyang would not pay.

Simmons said Eula received her ACC payment last week.

"Now she can finish the house that her husband never got to see, and has set aside money for her daughter's education," he said.

"She is so very thankful to ACC, her faith in humanity has been restored. Hopefully, the inquest will restore the rest."

One other Indonesian family is yet to finalise payments.

"The deaths of their men has meant the families have lost their incomes," Simmons said. "That has placed some families in dire hardship, however I understand all but one family has now received an ACC funeral and survivor grant.

"While small by our standards, these payments provide much-needed support during a very difficult time. ACC should be applauded for that."

ACC would not discuss specifics but confirmed it had dealt with Oyang 70 families.

A spokesman said ACC could provide assistance to the family of an overseas visitor fatally injured in New Zealand, and help varied accord to circumstances. Its funeral grant was currently $5788 and could be used outside New Zealand.

A survivor's grant is a one-off payment to the partner and children of the person killed, as well as anyone financially dependent on them because of a mental or physical disability. For a spouse it is $6206, and for a dependant $3103.

- © Fairfax NZ News

 

Korea free trade deal on offer to NZ

Michael Field

South Korea is likely to get much more liberal access to New Zealand fishing waters under a free trade agreement (FTA) Prime Minister John Key will negotiate this weekend despite there being slammed in a ministerial inquiry for labour and human rights abuses in waters here.

Mr Key will be in Seoul over the weekend for a nuclear summit and will have a one-on-one meeting with Korean President Lee Myung-bak with a Korea-New Zealand FTA high on the agenda.

Diplomatic sources say Korea is demanding open access to New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone in exchange for a free trade deal.

Mr Key told reporters today that the issue of human rights abuses aboard Korean flagged foreign charter vessels “may come up” in discussions.

But he made it clear he wants an FTA with Korea, New Zealand’s fifth largest trading partner, respective of the abuse issue.

“The issue there is that we want to advance the FTA obviously,” Mr Key said.

A joint ministerial inquiry report last month said it was mainly Korean ships that were damaging New Zealand’s international reputation and noted that most of the damaging incidents on FCVs involved Korea flagged ships.

Mr Key said the issues involved individual Korean companies and Foreign Minister Murray McCully had taken that up with the Korean Embassy in Wellington.

“Part of any FTA you have is that it still has to adhere to the laws that particular country.

“You cannot have Chinese labour laws operating here because a Chinese company wants to operate in New Zealand as part of an FTA. It will be the same for the Koreans.”

Mr Key stressed New Zealand exporters paid millions of dollars in South Korean tariffs and with an FTA “there are huge opportunities up there for us to do better.”

He said the FTA would not be settled with his trip but would be significantly advanced now that Korea had settled deals with Europe and North America.

Meanwhile a rusting 35-year-old Korean vessel Shin Ji that has been under detention at Auckland’s Viaduct since last August has fled the country and is now in Fiji which has markedly lower safe ship standards.

Shin Ji is part of the controversial Oyang Corp fleet, and was under charter to Tu’ere Fishing Ltd, now in voluntary liquidation.

Tu’ere’s half owner was New Plymouth Maori tribe Ngati Tama who used it to fish a quota for blind eels. The rest was owned by Alpine South Fishing Ltd, an Oyang shell company that operated Oyang 70 which sank off Otago two years ago killing six.

Last year an Indonesian crew followed an earlier crew and walked off Shin Ji, claiming physical and sexual abuse and low or no wages.

Two years ago an Indonesian crew member was killed on the ship when he was sent into the live eel holding tank.

While without a crew Maritime New Zealand declared it an unsafe ship and would not allow it to go to sea.

Tu’ere administrator Peter Coleman said the ship had now left for slipping in Fiji and that there was now no longer any labour payment issues.

He said a full, final and confidential settlement had been made with the crew.

He denied there had been any abuse issues on Shin Ji, claiming those who claimed there were had motivations other than those over the Indonesian crew welfare.

It had not proven possible to get Shin Ji up to New Zealand standard so it would go to waters where the standards were less stringent.

“We’ve determined the vessel cannot operate in New Zealand waters,” he said.

He denied it would operate out of Suva, a port infamous in shipping circles as a grave yard for rusting mainly Korean ships.

25 March 2012

 

Korean ship arrested over unpaid wages

 

Michael Field

 

Korean fishing boat is under High Court arrest over claims its owners owe $2.335 million in unpaid wages over two years.

Agents for 36-year-old foreign charter vessel (FCV) Oyang 77 tried before dawn on March 3 to get its crew on a Singapore Airlines plane from Christchurch but Ministry of Fisheries enforcement officers intercepted them.

Six agreed to help in official "investigations into whether the Oyang 77 has breached fisheries regulations" and have been kept in hiding in Christchurch .

Industry sources told the Sunday Star-Times that conditions are so appalling on Oyang 77 that six Korean officers tried to leave. Oyang fishes iwi quota in a charter operated by Southern Storm Ltd, a shell company for Korea 's Sajo Oyang Corporation.

On March 1 a ministerial inquiry warned Korean FCVs mistreated crews and damaged New Zealand 's international reputation. It made a series of recommendations for tighter control.

Oyang 77, one of 13 Korean-flagged ships out of a 21-strong FCV fleet, has become the cause celebre for campaigners fighting the slave-like conditions aboard the boats first exposed a year ago by the Star-Times. Last month it was refused a licence to fish here.

Already held under a High Court warrant over $160,000 in damages to Talley's Fisheries, Oyang 77 moved on March 3 to get its crew out. Tauranga lawyer Craig Tuck, founder of Slave Free Seas group, says Southern Storm threatened the crews and said if they did not go they would not get bonuses of around $4000.

They were told agents in Indonesia would make their lives even harder. "It was very threatening and the men felt very intimidated," he said.

On Monday, Tuck, acting for 26 crewmen, obtained a High Court arrest warrant over Oyang for the unpaid wages. Southern Storm, in a press release, denied any wages were owed.

While New Zealand authorities have been indifferent in the past to the plight of FCV crews and unwilling to enforce a code of conduct, that changed last week.

After the fishermen cleared Customs and were heading to the departure gate, Fisheries enforcement reached them. Men were asked to stay back to help with investigations against the owners of the Oyang 77. Allegations include illegal dumping and high grading of fish in the exclusive economic zone, as well as trucking, which means quota is illegally moved from one area to another.

"A small number of Oyang 77 crew members have chosen to stay in New Zealand and are assisting with these investigations," Fisheries deputy director-general Scott Gallacher said.

Oyang 77 is a sister ship to Oyang 70 which sank off Otago two years ago killing six, and of Oyang 75, whose crew walked off in Lyttelton in protest at inhumane conditions aboard.

Another FCV, Mellila 201, which is owned by Taejin Fishieries of Korea , and chartered by United Fisheries in Christchurch , remains under arrest at the insistence of the crew, with claims of $1.8m owed in salaries. 11 March 2012

 

Koreans send crew home unpaid

 

Michael Field

A Korean fishing company expelled Indonesian and Filipino crew of a 36-year-old unlicensed fishing ship and got them out of New Zealand early yesterday without paying them around $2 million in wages they were owed for the past two years.

Oyang 77's actions came two days after a ministerial inquiry warned that Korean foreign charter fishing vessels (FCVs) owners mistreated crews and damaged New Zealand 's international reputation.

Korea 's distant-water fishing fleet – a total of 220 vessels – has produced a tidal wave of reports into corruption, abuse and plunder from the coast of Sierra Leone , to Kiribati and down into the Southern Ocean.

Legal and industry sources say investigations are shortly to be launched by police and the Serious Fraud Office over alleged Crimes Acts offences in connection with Korean FCVs, involving missing multimillion-dollar sums owed to Inland Revenue, the Ministry of Fisheries and crews.

On Thursday, Oyang 77, under High Court arrest, tried to move into international waters but turned back to Lyttelton in the mistaken belief the Royal New Zealand Navy was chasing it.

Yesterday morning Oyang docked in Lyttelton and told the crew they were discharged and would be taken straight to the airport. The boat is chartered by Christchurch 's Southern Storm Fishing (2007) Ltd, a shell company holding the interests of Korea 's Sajo Oyang Corporation.

Twenty Indonesians and two Filipinos were each given around $4000 as a cash bonus – their total payment for two years' continual work – but they did not get between $40,000 and $60,000 in wages they claim are owed to them under the New Zealand minimum wage law.

Last week the Ministry of Fisheries refused Oyang 77 a licence to fish "because of concerns about this vessel's ability to comply with New Zealand fisheries regulations".

Oyang 77 is a sister ship to Oyang 70 which sank off Otago two years ago, killing six, and of Oyang 75, whose crew walked off in Lyttelton in protest at inhumane conditions.

Christchurch 's Anglican Care minister, Jolyon White, says that even as the ink was drying on the ministerial report, Southern Storm Fishing was "shunting another crew out of the country before they can be witnesses in their own minimum wages claim".

He said they tried the same trick with the Oyang 75 crew, but Anglican Care provided support and the crewmen were still here, battling for their wages. "It is time to stop abusing, not paying, then sending away fishing crews in New Zealand waters," he said.

Oyang has made no comment about the latest events but a shipping agent who acts for them emailed to say our information was "a load of complete and utter lies".

Authorities say the offending companies are all secretive Korean corporations backed by the Seoul government, which is demanding unfettered access to New Zealand 's exclusive economic zone in exchange for a free trade pact.

Maritime lawyer Peter Dawson has long experience of dealing with Korean boats, particularly in South Africa a decade ago, when it was found that Dongwon vessels were using fraudulent documents to fish there. "They are known internationally as dodgy operators, and yet New Zealand allows them here," he says.

Korean companies had no scruples about plundering fisheries anywhere. "They don't have any form of stewardship of the resources they have access to."

Acting for Nelson's Talley's Fisheries, Dawson won the High Court arrest of Oyang 77 over an incident last year when it collided with the net of a Talley's boat. Talley's wants $160,000 in damages.

Dawson said what was astonishing in all his dealings with Korean owners was that they never showed up in court or in the legal process. They always left it to the charterers to do it.

He said he hates going aboard Korean boats because he wants to throw up. "They are filthy, they are appallingly run, they are dirty, horrid, disgusting vessels and that is why the observers don't want to go on them."

The government has ordered Ministry of Fisheries observers – who are paid between $226.91 and $302.54 per day at sea – on to all FCVs, including 13 under Korean flag. University of Auckland Business School researcher Glenn Simmons, whose report last year exposed the worst excesses on FCVs, says the way the Oyang 77 crew was treated yesterday reflected the way Koreans viewed their crews – "cheap and disposable labour".

He said it was important New Zealand authorities now worked to hold people accountable for serious criminal offences which the ministerial report says did occur on some FCVs.

If New Zealand lacked the skills, because of the complexity of the issues, then it should seek international help.

4 March 2012

Strange voyage of Oyang 77

 

A 36-year-old South Korean-flagged charter fishing boat caused a legal flurry after it upped-anchor near Lyttelton and headed toward international waters yesterday despite a High Court arrest warrant.

The Korean officers of Oyang 77 say they were taking their rubbish out to dump in the Pacific beyond the 12 mile (22 kilometre) territorial limit.

But it seems the Koreans had a change of heart when they realised they were heading straight toward a Royal New Zealand Navy ship.

Oyang 77 is under arrest in a civil dispute with Nelson's Talley's Fishing following an incident near the Auckland Islands , in which it hit and damaged the trawling gear of the Amaltal Explorer.

Last week the Ministry of Agriculture refused Oyang 77 a licence to fish "because of concerns about this vessel's ability to comply with New Zealand fisheries regulations".

It is a sister ship to Oyang 70, which sank off Otago two years ago killing six, and of Oyang 75, whose crew walked off in protest at claimed inhumane conditions aboard.

All are chartered by Christchurch 's Southern Storm Fishing (2007) Ltd, a shell company holding the interests of Korea 's Sajo Oyang Corporation.

Oyang 77 has also run aground in the Chatham Islands previously.

It is one of the foreign charter fishing vessels investigated by Fairfax Media in the past year over claims of human rights and labour abuses.

Talley's operations manager Andy Smith said they got a High Court arrest warrant over Oyang last Friday. It required the ship to remain at anchor off Christchurch 's South Brighton Beach until the matter was resolved.

But at 7.30am yesterday Oyang lifted its anchor without court permission and began sailing east at nine knots (16 kilometres per hour), toward international waters.

Ship tracking website Marinetraffic.com showed it had gone around 14 kilometres on a course which brought it toward hydrographic ship HMNZS Resolution.

A Navy spokeswoman said Resolution was not tracking Oyang and was conducting a survey, or "mowing the grass", in which the ship towed sonar arrays back and forward.

They radioed the oncoming ship to stay clear of its lines, but Marinetraffic.com shows Oyang 77 executed a 180 degree turn and headed back to anchor.

Oyang's agent, Marty Logan, said they did not know why Oyang had moved and had no explanation for its behaviour.

However fishing industry sources say the Korean captain said he was going to take out rubbish to dump off Banks Peninsula in international waters. The crew did not know what was happening.

Smith said they believed Oyang was in contempt of court.

He said the issue in dispute occurred in March last year in which Oyang 77 was the give-way vessel while trawling, and allegedly failed to do so.

Their trawl door entangled with Amaltal Explorer's door and as a result its door was lost.

Southern Storm refused a claim for compensation and the issue has gone to court.

1 March 2012

 

 

South Korea's plunder of the Southern Ocean

Michael Field

A South Korean fishing boat that illegally took $600,000 worth of toothfish from the Southern Ocean has been fined by its own government $1600 which pressured other nations to keep it off an international list of banned boats.

Insung No 7 has been exposed in an official report in which nations including New Zealand, the European Union and the US demanded Seoul clean its act up in the wake of "many incidences" of non-compliance involving its flagged vessels.

Insung 7, a sister ship to Insung No 1 which sank in the Southern Ocean in December 2010 with the loss of 22 men, is owned by one of Korea's biggest fishing companies.

Revelations of Korean incidences comes as the Korean media have begun reporting on their behaviour in New Zealand's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) where it operates foreign charter fishing vessels.

The Sunday Star-Times and the University of Auckland have revealed a procession of decrepit Korean ships in which men have died and abuse is rampant.

Later this month a government joint-ministerial inquiry will report on whether foreign charter vessels should continue to be used here.

An inquest is also to be held in Wellington next month into the deaths of six men on the Korean ship Oyang 70.

Diplomatic sources in Wellington South Korea is demanding open access to New Zealand's EEZ in exchange for a free trade pact.

A December meeting of the 25 nation Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources in Hobart launched unprecedented criticism, according to the advance copy of the minutes of its meeting. They body controls fishing south of 60 degrees.

In debate on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, Insung No 7 was the main point of discussion.

Nations expressed "great concern regarding the 339 percent over-catch  and the intentional nature of the actions"

Insung was fined US$1500 for its behaviour by Seoul.

"Members expressed concern that the monetary penalty imposed was insignificant in comparison to the value of the 35 tonnes of toothfish which Korea concluded had been taken illegally and was estimated by Members to be worth US$500 000."

The commission initially recommend Insung No 7 be placed on an official blacklist but Korea demanded reconsideration.

"Many delegations  noted that the vessel's 339 percent over-catch of toothfish in, including through the setting of two lines after the vessel was aware that the catch limit had been exceeded."

This was intentional illegal fishing, the minutes say.

"In addition, they were of the view that the sanctions that had been applied by Korea to the operator, vessel and master were completely inadequate given the seriousness of the illegal activity."

The American delegation said the world was watching what the commission did and that if a blind eye was turned to Insung No 7 it was complicit in the illegal fishing.

New Zealand expressed disappointment over Korea's behaviour.

"Members noted that this was one of many incidences of non-compliance by the Korean-flagged vessels in addition to the loss of life caused by the sinking of the Insung No. 1 and suggested Korea consider reviewing its domestic arrangements to provide for the imposition of more appropriate sanctions on those responsible for vessels flying Korean flag," the commission decided.

The ship was not listed as an IUU ship as commission decisions have to be reached by consensus. Korea was the only hold out.

Le Monde diplomatique's Korean edition, reprinted in other Seoul dailies, says the "true picture of Korea's ugly overseas fishing industry is  labour abuse, human rights abuse, violation of international convention, exploitation of marine living resources and under-estimation of the value of life."

It says Insung "is notorious for its violation of conservation measures" but is protected by the Korean Government.

The Korean Embassy did not respond to a request for comment.

Last year when allegations were made around Korean abuse on FCVs, embassy spokesman Tony Sung said it was not appropriate to discuss the issue with the Star-Times.

"From now on, any further correspondence from you on these issues will not be acknowledged or responded to," he said.

5 February 2012

Sunday Star-Times

 

 

A tale of two fishing boats

A government inquiry will shortly report on the use of foreign charter fishing boats and as Michael Field reports it may come down to which flag flies on the sterns 

 

 

Two Soviet era trawlers moored beside each other in Nelson sum up the extremes of foreign charter fishing operations in the oceans around New Zealand. 

On the smaller one, Sparta, flying a Russian flag, a couple of weary, uncommunicative Indonesians chip away at platingaboard a shabby and damaged old boat that narrowly missed disaster in the Southern Ocean. 

At the next and bigger boat, Aleksandr Buryachenko flying a Ukrainian flag, a doctor settles into his cabin as crew check home on the shipboard Skype. 

Coincidently, in Vietnam three families mark the lunar festival of Tet knowing their sons will not be returning from the Southern Ocean. They were killed when their vessel caught fire and sank. 

Since April 3 last year, when the Sunday Star-Times revealed the near slave conditions aboard a number of foreign charter vessels, the government has set up an inquiry which will next month report on whether they are damaging our reputation and should be halted, despite the around $200 million in export earnings they made last year. 

Sealord Group who charter Aleksandr Buryachenko defend their reputation and allowed the Star-Times to sail with them. 

No offer came from other charter operators and evidence suggests the major scandal lives with firms using old Korean and Japanese boats with multi-national crews – usually a mix of Vietnamese, Indonesian, Cambodian and i-Kiribati men. 

Aleksandr Buryachenko is all Ukrainian, and mostly from Sevastopol on the Black Sea.

For Captain Yuri Kylybov, 49, it is this that marks the difference between his FCV and others.

“I can only speak for Ukrainian vessels and we have good discipline, good crews, good food and we have common culture and common values,” he says.

“Same country, same nation, same values…. 

“I feel sorry for the crews with their different religions and nationalities and culture. They could end up fighting over simple things like food. 

The heavily hierarchical, almost military, nature of his ship and common training means they know each others skills. 

Ministry of Fisheries observer Bheema Louwrens has served aboard mixed nationality ships.

“They don’t speak each others language at all, they only have a couple of common words between crews and officers.” 

Kylybov says they do not compete with New Zealand fleets but says it is up to Wellington to decide if they can stay. 

Owned by the Ukrainian Government, Sealord has told the government inquiry that their owners will not allow them to be re-flagged under New Zealand colours.

Sealord harvest operations manager Colin Williams believes the FCV issue is to do with the abhorrent behaviour of someoperators.

“I don’t believe the regulatory frame work is broken. What you have is people at one end of the scale allegedly not complying (and) who need to comply and people at the other end of the scale who are complying and carrying out legitimate business and contributing to the people of New Zealand.” 

Chartering was a legitimate way to run a complex fishery in which vessels could be worth around $50 million.

“We are not operating unsustainably with people or fish.” 

The problem for Sealord and others is that they have become dependent on the aging peace dividend from the collapse of the Soviet Union. No one is building ships like Aleksandr Buryachenko any more and its crew were mostly late middle age.

Spending what amounts to six months at sea is not attractive to many, even in Ukraine.

Williams says they have the same problem in New Zealand: “like every business we compete for crew or staff. We compete for crew with every industry… we are competing with mines in Australia and the oil industry. Those primary resource industries are a huge draw on our personal.” 

There is also something of a philosophical difference.

Sealord – half owned by Maori iwi quota owners – believes making a good economic return is not about “New Zealandisation”, but rather making profit. 

Peter Talley of rival Talley’s Fisheries say it is about New Zealanders fishing New Zealand fish. 

When Sealord made submissions to the ministerial inquiry, panel member Neil Walter separated the Nelson company from the wider allegations saying that “some of the same names and the same flags do keep coming up” when allegations of abuse are laid against FCVs.

He did not cite the Koreans, but in the industry it is their behaviour causing much of the grief with decrepit vessels like Melilla 203, Shin Ji and Oyang 75 operating in the exclusive economic zone – all linked to abuse of crews. 

In March a Wellington coroner will hold hearings into the deaths of six men killed when Oyang 70 sank off the Otago coast. 

Outside the EEZ, but still in New Zealand search and rescue jurisdiction, there was the Korean boat No. 1 Insung, operating out of Bluff which sank two years ago with the loss of 22 men, Vietnamese and Indonesian.

Earlier this month another Korean boat, Jeong Woo 2, caught fire in the Ross Sea and sank, killing Nguyen Van Son, 23, Nguyen Van Dong, 32, and Dang Ngoc Quang, 27. 

Crew agents Inmasco Company had insured them for US$16,000 each. Families will get some of the money. 
Twenty three year old Sparta, at dock in Nelson, is not Korean but it faced the same mixed crew - 15 Russians, 16 Indonesians and a Ukrainian - and decrepit boat question the others did. Not ice strengthened, it sailed into an iceberg and was holed. 

Only with striking rescue work by the Royal New Zealand Air Force, was it saved.

With what seems to be little more than corrugated iron sheeting for shelter around most of the after deck, it was striking to think that it had been sent into the world’s most dangerous sea, with some of the poorest paid crews and the frailest of boats to chase the richest catch in the world – toothfish.

There is more to it though, than the price of fish. 

Footnote: Sealord Group facilitated Michael Field's voyage with the Star-Times paying all other costs. 

Sunday Star-Times

30 January 2012

 

Worries aboard a Ukrainian fishing boat

Michael Field

On the darkened bridge of a large Ukrainian fishing boat it was easy to tell if the captain was near as he incessantly clicked his rosary-like worry beads.

 "In Russia," says Yuri Kylybov, the 49-year-old captain of Aleksandr Buryachenko, "we have a saying that a fisherman is twice the mariner of any other mariner."

Under charter to Nelson based Sealord Group, the 14-year-old 4407 ton factory trawler is the largest operating in New Zealand's exclusive economic zone, taking "high volume, low value" fish and squid.

Its 80 men and three women come from Sevastopol on the Black Sea, in Ukraine, part of the Soviet Union until disintegration in 1991.

Launched in 1997 it is built to the one grunty size fits all Soviet-era plans; it looks older than it is.

In Cold War days they were suspected of spying on the West.

Kylybov, a captain's son who served first as a fourth officer in the Soviet fleet, doesn't disagree.

His ship has gun-platforms and the captain's cabin has a safe for the sealed orders to be opened when war started.

In another era, Kylybov could have been told to seize Nelson.

Aleksandr Buryachenko, named after a CEO of the Ukrainian State Fishing Corporation, is rich in Soviet touches, down to rotary telephones and machinery made in Soviet era numbered factories.

Over the radar, sonar and fishing finding electronics, a picture of what once would have been Lenin is replaced with an icon of Saint Nicholas, patron of fishermen.

Cyrillic notices renders me illiterate, so the chief mate had to act out the safety briefing.

"No worry," he says, his English just surpassing my Russian, "we not sinking."

Kylybov's cabin has the only hammer and sickle left aboard - perhaps because I seemed to be the only one to notice it. 

He grows chilli to flavour the Russian borscht served every meal - enlivened occasionally with unappealing sweet breads. They did not eat fish.

The boats stay in New Zealand as crews rotate every six months, flown out in Uzbekistani jets.

Kylybov is a "summer captain" - six months on here and six months summer there. He's been coming for 11 years.

"I like the order in this country.... This is a very civilised place; order and no corruption."

Where once spy reports would have dominated the mission, technology is now devoted to the Internet, Skype and daily contact with families in Sevastopol.

"Skype is a dangerous thing," he says adding there is no such thing as a quick call. It can take hours to get through the family.

Valeriy Moskat, 59, bosun with 38 years at sea, the last 11 here, says he would have been out of contact with his family for months.

"We are in constant contact.... We have got used to it."

He says in Christchurch sized Sevastopol they have a "marine culture" and people know of New Zealand because so many work the ships here.

Kylybov's worry beads were disconcerting. In the 1954 movie The Caine Mutiny Humphrey Bogart played a navy captain who under tension fingers two ball-bearings, click, click, click.

Kylybov always seems tense on the bridge, but never spoke loud nor barked orders.

"I am responsible for 80 people and all there families. I am like a father to them, and I have to find the fish. The harder we work, the happier we are the more fish, the more happy."

Squid intrigued him.

"It is a very difficult fish, mysterious and so interesting that something with such a tiny brain  can be so unpredictable."

The ship seldom spends more than two days at dock because its charter costs Sealord US$30,000 (NZ$37,000) a day, fishing or not. Sealord, half owned by iwi under the Waitangi Treaty settlements, upset at coverage of mainly Korean boats using near slave labour crews, invited the Sunday Star-Times on a voyage.

In the Tasman they "shoot" their first net for mackerel.

Aleksandr Buryachenko can trawl faster than most ships and when the net is out, the ship has a comfortable motion.

Next morning several metre long sharks come up with the net and are grabbed and thrown to one side. Nothing is thrown back; it is against the rules and the dozens of albatrosses and petrels wait fruitlessly - in the jargon the we're on a "clean ship".

Special rigging hanging out from the stern prevents the birds snaring nets.

Mackerel are headed and gutted in the spotlessly clean - and very wet - factory below the trawl deck while the small by-catch and the guts are turned into fishmeal. That includes a large electric skate, flapping on the floor. It can still deliver a decent kick so is left to die.

School sharks and four decent sized tuna lay in a bin. As the tuna had been killed in the nets and not bled, its meat was unappealing (although I'd have cooked it myself to avoid cattle tongue lunch).

Kylybov was disappointed.

"Small fish, not good fishing," he said although around 30 tons of jack mackerel seemed a good morning's work.

Aleksandr Buryachenko is a quiet ship with few announcements.

Despite the machinery of pulleys and cranes, bringing in nets is physically demanding. The factory workers are mostly semi-skilled, but as sailors and fishermen they have all come up through a deeply hierarchal maritime system.

They are skilled beyond the ability of most New Zealanders in this line of work.

When they are not working, they are sleeping or watching Russian soaps and music videos. News of the sinking of Costa Concordia was watched with horror, especially as there had been many Russians aboard.

In the bow was a sauna along side a seawater plunge pool. Russians love dunking themselves into cold water - I lacked the courage.

My cabin had a large bath but a stench of what I thought was cabbage and raisin fruit drink stained urine kept me away much of the time. Watching birds from the bridge was fascinating.

Mooring fees and time meant Aleksandr Buryachenko wasn't going to dock just to let me off.

A pilot boat has to pick me up and the captain gave me a bottle of honey and chilli flavoured vodka and Ukrainian fortified wine, seeming as a token for the abrupt ending.

Just after 1am, under a moonless and Milky Way filled night we approach Dunedin, the light at Taiaroa Head flashing.

Kylybov's worry beads work hard.

"Don't be afraid," he says like some one's father.

Moskat is at the head of the ladder. Way below the pilot boat nestles in as we move five knots through the darkness. He hands me some gloves, a warm handshake and I'm over the side.

I knew not to look down but it is a big ship.

About to look down a voice rich in Southland rolled-rrrs says "only two more steps mate."

Aleksandr Buryachenko moved off into the dark, bound for the Southern Ocean - it's not my ship but that old hymn for all in peril upon the sea came to mind; budem zdorovy, stay healthy....

 

Footnote: Sealord Group facilitated Michael Field's voyage with the Sunday Star-Times paying all other costs.

22 January 2012

Sunday Star-Times

 

California law threatens NZ fish exports

 

Michael Field

Fish exports to the United States worth $178 million a year could be in trouble after California enacted a law to fight human trafficking and slave labour in global supply chains.

At the same time US President Barack Obama issued a proclamation against international human trafficking which he termed an “inexcusable human rights abuse”.

Diplomatic sources say there is growing alarm in the New Zealand government that this country’s exports will become targets in the anti-human trafficking campaign because of heavy dependence on foreign charter fishing vessels (FCVs) which are crewed by mainly Asian men in what amounts to sweat shop conditions aboard decrepit fishing boats.

On January 1 the California Supply Chain Transparency Act or SB 657 came into effect.

The world’s first such law it requires retail sellers and manufacturers doing business in California to publicly disclose their efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their direct supply chain.

SB 657 affects over 3,000 companies including major brands, retailers, vendors, and suppliers with headquarters outside of California and even the US. 

A background paper says with the world's tenth largest economy, California is a global importer and exporter of goods and it “will enable consumers, retailers, and manufacturers alike to hamstring human trafficking and stop slavery, in California and around the world.”

New Zealand’s fish exports including toothfish, orange roughy and hoki pass through California based companies including giants such as fast food operator McDonalds.

Last year the US State Department’s Ambassador on prosecuting human traffickers, Luis CdeBaca (Ed: Luis CdeBaca), visited New Zealand following Sunday Star-Times and University of Auckland reports on conditions aboard FCVs.

His report referred to claims around conditions and added that New Zealand “fully complies with the minimum standards”.

The US Ambassador in New Zealand, David Huebner, inn his latest blog on the US Embassy website says he against met with CdeBaca in Washington last month.

Huebner says “human trafficking is a worldwide scourge, even in highly developed societies, and numerous governments, corporations, and NGOs have launched projects to raise awareness and combat the problem.”

In the White House on December 30 Obama proclaimed this month as slavery and human trafficking prevention month culminating in National Freedom Day.

He said around the world thousands of people “suffer in silence under the intolerable yoke of modern slavery”….

“From forced labour and debt bondage to forced commercial sexual exploitation and involuntary domestic servitude, human trafficking leaves no country untouched.”

Obama said the US was “forging robust international partnerships that strengthen global anti-trafficking efforts, and to confronting traffickers here at home”.

Last year the government created a ministerial inquiry to consider what action to take over the boats.

One of its key terms of reference was to consider the damage FCVs were having on New Zealand’s international reputation.

One of the strongest submissions in favour of FCVs came from the Seafood Industry Council general manager, Alastair Macfarlane, who said it media coverage, and not the fishing, that posed reputational risk.

Removing FCVs from New Zealand would reduce fish landings and damage the economy.

But in an unusual move, the Seafood Industry Council CEO Peter Bodeker, has written to the inquiry and asked it not to accept its own submission any more.

Bodeker, in a letter obtained by the Star-Times, said their submissions had been drawn up knowing there was no consensus in the council over FCVs and since it had been submitted one of is main member organisations, Talley’s Group Ltd, had “raised concerns”.

Thus the council no longer had a view any more.

Sunday Star-Times

8 January 2012

 

Anti slave fishing organisation set up

Michael Field

Disgust at the practice of near slavery in New Zealand’s foreign charter fishing boats, along with physical and sexual abuse, has led a group of prominent lawyers and advocates to set up a trust aimed at winning human rights protection for fishing crews.

Slave Free Seas - Slavefreeseas.org - comes in the wake of a University of Auckland study into the troubled charter business and year long exposes by the Sunday Star-Times.

But even as the group gets started, Indonesians aboard two Korean flagged charter boats, are threatening to walk off, claiming extensive abuse and non-payment of around $1.9 million in wages.

The Korean Dae Hyun Agriculture and Fisheries Co boats Melilla 201 and 203 are on charter to United Fisheries Ltd (UFL) of Sockton, owned by prominent Christchurch businessmen.

Tauranga barrister Craig Tuck, who is working with Melilla crews, has also played a founding role in Slave Free Seas.

He says there is a groundswell of disgust over what is happening in the fishery.

“I realised it was essentially a bunch of guys who wanted to improve themselves and their families lot and to put in the hard yards and do some work, and realised they were essentially being preyed upon,” he said.

“These were not people wanting a handout, or pillaging our fisheries; these were young men, brothers, sons, some of them the same age as my son, who were genuinely trying to contribute to their society their family and finding themselves in situations of utter powerlessness and being used and abused.”

Working with the Hong Kong based anti-people trafficking group, the Mekong Club, the New Zealand group wants people to know that slave crewing is not an economic problem.

“This is just modern slavery; it is just appalling that those who have power and wealth are praying on those who don’t. I’ve had a gutsful.”

He said many lawyers across different jurisdictions were quickly combating the issues which were not helped by the sheer complexity of the industry.

In their explanation, the trust says they are not social workers, respite care givers, educators or researchers.

“We are lawyers and business people who mean business.

“Modern slavery is dirty business and dirty law. We fight against that. Where it gets wet we get wild when it comes to slavery.”

A government established ministerial inquiry is due to report in February on what can be done to end the abuses around fishing.

A Christchurch company, Arendale Ltd, made submissions over its work with UFL and the two Melilla boats.

Arendale owner Christophe Ludeke told the inquiry the problem with absconding seamen was to do with illegal labour agents luring them to orchards and vineyards.

He told the inquiry that he always asked crews about their welfare.

“My overall impression is that the captains have been successful in providing a family like environment for their crews,” he told the government.

Ludeke said his statement was correct when he made them two months ago.

Asked about the crew now threatening to walk off, he said: “I think there are issues that need to be clarified.

“The only comment I will make is that at no time of my involvement with the crew did they allege any physical or sexual impropriety, this has just come out of the blue.

“I would have thought if such actions were going on I would have heard about it…”

In 2008 the Melilla owners were fined $380,000 when convicted of “trucking” or taking fish from one area and claiming it was caught in another area.

The ships then were not working for United at the time.

United’s shareholder are Roger Keys and Kenneth Jones of St Albans, Christchurch, Kyriakos, Demetrios, Kypros Emilios and Andre Kotzikas, all of Parkhouse Road, Christchurch.

20 November 2011

Michael Field

A business leader of New Zealand’s largest iwi, Northland’s Ngapuhi, has launched a passionate defence of the way it uses low cost Asian foreign charter vessels to catch its deep water quota.

Without its FCV the chairman of 122,000 strong Ngapuhi said the iwi would have no income and its main town, Kaikohe (4000), would suffer.

“Kaikohe is not one of your most successful towns, it is suffering,” he told a three person ministerial inquiry into FCVs in Auckland .

He angrily denounced claims that fishing and processing amounted to slavery and he suggested the term was coming from two of New Zealand ’s richer provinces, Nelson and Tasman, which had their own fishing interests.

“Ngapuhi is not aware of any of its products being involved in slave labour… Your panel cannot allow such accusations to go unresearched.”

Part of the inquiry’s mandate was to examine how the use of FCVs was damaging New Zealand ’s reputation.

Reputation came down to him.

“There is no way I am going to risk my reputation on anything that isn’t correct and proper… There is dfefinately a ‘buck stops here’,” Sir John said.

“We’ve got personal reputations at stake.”

The former head of Auckland International Airport and on Television New Zealand ’s board appeared before the panel made up of a previous Labour Government Labour Minister, Paul Swain, KPMG accountant Sarah McGrath and current Broadcasting Commission chair Neil Walter.

If indications from questions are significant, the panel is focussing on how to make fishing quota holders responsible for how the catch is taken. They also appear to be focussing on particular companies and ship flags.

Without specifically mentioning Korean companies, Mr Walters noted at the inquiry that “some of the same names and the same flags do keep coming up” when allegations of abuse are laid against FCVs.

Deepwater catch owned Ngapuhi and the East Coast iwi Ngati Kahungunu are caught by a Korean ship, Gom 379, chartered by Northern Deepwater GP Ltd.

Sir John told the inquiry they worked closely with the FCV because their income was completely dependent on it.

Ngapuhi’s quota had a book value of $20 million, but they could not sell it without support of 75 percent of adult tribe members.

“In essence that is of no commercial value to us.”

They could not use it to buy their own boat, even if they could find a lender.

“No one is going to give us a boat. I defy anybody to show us how to make a return of it.”

Sir John said New Zealand had plenty of examples of low wage workers and he pointed to fruit pickers.

“The use of external labour is not that unusual.”

He said 100 people were employed in Kaikohe using fishing money, and there was no other.

“We are not all that good in a social situation.”

Northern Deepwater director Phil Smith said the FCV had put $6.8 million into iwi over the last two years and supported towns like Lyttelton, Timaru, Bluff and Kaikohe.

He said there was no New Zealand crew available for boats here.

If New Zealanders qualified in ships, they were quickly picked up by Australian boats at much greater salary.

Sealord Group – jointly owned by Maori and a Japanese company – defended the use of FCVs and said that they were a company with the highest reputational risk to protect.

“There has never been a time when we didn’t have foreign vessels in our waters,” CEO Graham Stuart said.

If FCVs were forced out, most of the deep water quota value would be destroyed and the best of it would be cherry picked by one of two companies.

Mr Stuart called for “strong punitive action” against boats that broke the laws.

In response to a question from Mr Swain over who should be responsible for what went on, Mr Stuart replied the quota owners should be required to retain responsibility.

Reputation was important and people have to be sensitive to it.

“It is quite clear the risk of reputation should be born by the quota owner.”

Sealord resisted suggestions made by others that all fishing boats here should be New Zealand flagged.

Sealord general manager harvesting Colin Williams said New Zealand should not be making demands

New Zealand is not in a position to dictate to the rest of the world have we have higher maritime standards.”

New Zealand standards are not better, just different.

26 Oct 2011

Probe exposes fishing underbelly

A ministerial inquiry sparked by a Sunday Star-Times shows, serious fears about letting foreign fishermen in NZ waters. Michael Field

Decrepit foreign fishing vessels crewed with sweatshop Asian labour are destroying New Zealand's international reputation for safe and sustainable food and are ruining our ability to catch our own fish.

These claims come in submissions to a joint ministerial inquiry into the use of foreign charter vessels (FCVs) that take 62% of the deep ocean catch and almost all of the Maori fish quota.

Their crews pay no tax, but are covered by the Accident Compensation Corporation. The vessels ignore safe-ship standards as well as employment, health and safety laws. Crew on FCVs are paid a quarter of the rates paid on New Zealand-flagged boats. 

``FCVs act largely in a regulatory and compliance vacuum which leads to undesirable exploitative practices and a distorted playing field for New Zealand crew vessels,'' said Nelson-based Talley's Group Ltd, which has been fishing since 1936.

FCVs were having a ``punitive impact'' by ``robbing New Zealand Inc of substantial economic wealth and exposing our industry to significant risk''.

Media reports and Auckland University studies into the conditions suffered by around 2500 mainly Asian men working 26 boats prompted the inquiry.

Since quota management started in 1986, FCVs have created a wild west fishery while sending the local fishing fleet into decline. 

``Most of the catch from FCVs is processed in China utilising slave labour and then resold into the world markets as `Produce of New Zealand','' said Talley's.

 ``This product is sold in direct competition to seafood caught by New Zealanders and processed by New Zealanders.''

The company added that FCV catch is outside normal food security checks in New Zealand .

``Instead of the New Zealand brand being associated with sustainable harvesting and responsible, trusted New Zealand processing, the brand is at risk of being associated with Third World processing standards and deceptive marketing.''

FCVs account for 90% of all seabird strikes, said Talley's, and 70% of all deep water offences and 100% of ship desertions. That is why New Zealanders don't work on the boats. ``[Nobody]  should have to work in those conditions and certainly not in New Zealand .''

Talley's was puzzled why Maori leaders argued for FCVs when so many Maori were unemployed. The company suggested Maori should investigate ``demise charter'' which means hiring an empty boat and providing the crew. In contrast, FCVs are on time charter, which is like hiring a taxi.

``Influential Maori should demand a change in direction that would allow a group of Maori fishermen to demise charter a fishing craft and crew it with their young people.''

Iwi who made submissions said they could not afford to own boats, but Talley's said that was a side issue.

FCV supporters said the vessels take fish that would otherwise be uneconomic to catch.

Talley's said that was no justification: ``If it is uneconomic to harvest a New Zealand resource under New Zealand labour conditions and costs then it is not a resource. Blood diamonds and Asian textile sweatshops use the same justification  New Zealand can play no part.''

The inquiry followed last year's sinking of the Oyang 70, killing six men. The crew of its replacement boat, Oyang 75, walked off, claiming abuse. Last week the Ministry of Fisheries laid 26 charges against its Korean officers over allegations of dumping fish overboard.

Sajo Oyang Corporation, whose New Zealand charter entity is Southern Storm Fishing (2007) Ltd, warned the inquiry that New Zealand does not have legal jurisdiction past the 12 mile territorial limit in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

``The EEZ is not part of New Zealand, but rather it is an area  over which New Zealand  is given certain sovereign and jurisdictional rights and obligations,'' Southern Storm managing director Soon Nam Oh told the inquiry.

He said that ``parties with broader political agenda'' were exploiting the Oyang 70's sinking.

Auckland University and the Sunday Star-Times were acting in a ``politically motivated campaign designed to create a moral panic amongst fair-minded New Zealanders''.

Maritime lawyer Peter Dawson of Nelson had dealt with FCVs in Africa .

``Korean-flagged vessels have a uniformly poor reputation amongst third-world African states for poor labour practices, and unscrupulous pillaging of third-world fishing nations.''

He noted that the government allowed Korea and Japan to impose 15% tariffs on New Zealand-caught fish.  The use of FCVs had resulted in 30 years of disinvestment in fishing, and as a result of FCVs. A whole generation of New Zealand fishermen had been lost to FCVs.

Most of the caught fish was processed in China .

``This fact itself is damaging to the New Zealand brand, as the produce, although caught in New Zealand waters and labelled `Product of New Zealand' never reaches our shore,'' Dawson said. 

The Council of Trade Unions told the inquiry that Australia required fishing boats in its EEZ to be Australian-flagged, but FCVs here were flagged in South Korea , Ukraine , Japan and Dominica .

Maritime New Zealand said FCVs were a ``legal anomaly'' and reform was needed. It said New Zealand was not a party to two international  conventions on safety and standards aboard fishing boats.

Listed fishing company Sanfords Ltd, which uses FCVs, said restrictions would be ``unwarranted and counter-productive'' and ``would seriously hamper the future development of New Zealand 's fishing industry''.

Sealords  half owned by Maori and a Japanese company  said that  ending use of these vessels would cost New Zealand about $196 million in exports.

``FCVs generally harvest low-value species that are unprofitable and/or not practicable for New Zealand vessels to harvest.''

The Labour Department said New Zealand would benefit directly if locals got into fishing.

This would also end exploitative labour practices because ``New Zealanders simply would not tolerate, and could not afford, the kind of practices alleged  especially toward Indonesian crew.''

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries called for New Zealand flagging, saying it would make it easier to impose a range of standards in the fishing industry.

The inquiry, chaired by former minister of labour Paul Swain, is holding hearings in Auckland on Wednesday and Nelson on Thursday. It is due to report by February 24.

23 October 2011

 

 

 

Fishing industry addiction to aging foreign fishing boats has been disclosed in new official papers showing that their poorly paid Asian crews, many suffering appalling abuse, now catch two-thirds of the nation’s deep-water fish.

Over the last five fishing seasons, foreign charter vessels (FCVs) have caught $1.7 billion dollars worth of fish.

While Maori iwi are cited as being part of the operations of FCVs in the government paper, Sunday Star-Times investigations show that the president of the National Party, Peter Goodfellow, is also a beneficiary of the trade through substantial ownership in fishing company Sanford.

Meanwhile prominent whale hunting lobbyist Glenn Inwood, believed to be acting for Korean fishing companies, is using New Zealand’s Official Information Act (OIA) in a bid to find out where the University of Auckland and this newspaper is obtaining its information on FCVs.

The Business School and the Star-Times have this year uncovered virtual slave like labour conditions inflicted on around 2000 mainly Asian men prompting the government to eventually launch a ministerial inquiry.

A Ministry of Fisheries (MFish) inquiry briefing paper, obtained by the Star-Times, reveals government agents charged with regulating the vessels prefer instead “a strong emphasis on educating and assisting the commercial sector to comply”.

MFish refused our OIA request for data on whether observers aboard FCVs were seeing illegal activities, but wording in the briefing paper concedes procedures such as “high grading” or throwing caught fish overboard in the hope of getting better fish later is taking place.

The paper says observers collect biological information “but additional coverage may be required on FCVs to monitor the vessel’s compliance with the act.”

MFish says 26 FCVs (13 from South Korea , Ukraine (4), Japan (7) and Dominica (2) “act on behalf of New Zealand companies, not in place of them….

“In some cases FCVs are part of a wider business relationship between a New Zealand seafood company and an overseas enterprise.”

Nineteen of the 45 boats working nine main species in deep water are FCVs, taking two thirds of the volume and 40 percent of the total commercial harvest of all species in the quota management system.

“The average vessel age of the current FC fleet is 26 years, compared to 23 years for the deepwater domestic fleet.”

Each year MFish strikes an annual total allowable catch and those holding quota are then given that year’s “annual catch entitlements” (ACE)

The briefing paper says the system means that many Maori iwi end up with small size ACE.

“Selling ACE on the open market is viewed by many iwi as the best way to use these assets.”

Sanford, who last year held 23.54 percent of the total quota, use four Korean FCVs and five of their own boats to work the deepwater.

In their latest report Sanford say they “work with officials to counter the ill-informed and politically motivated demonising” of FCVs.

Goodfellow and his brother William are on the Sanford board, each receiving an annual fee of $47,500.

Thirty seven percent of Sanford stock is held by Amalgamated Dairies Ltd, a Goodfellow family controlled company.

Peter Goodfellow owns in his own name Sanford stock worth, on Friday values, $623,000.

An Asian seaman aboard an FCV can, if treated properly, earn around $11,600 a year or less than a quarter of Goodfellow’s fee.

Goodfellow did not respond to emails or messages for comment.

The latest issue of Professional Skipper magazine said the ministerial inquiry should not amount to a “quick sweep under the table” and said it expected Goodfellow “will now step aside (as party president) and distance himself because of a potential conflict of interest”.

Glen Innwood’s company, Omeka Communications of Wellington, last month wrote to the University of Auckland saying it was subjected to the OIA and that he wanted emails, letters and other forms of communications between the Star-Times, among others, and the Business School researchers who wrote a major study, “Not in New Zealand Waters, Surely?”

He also wanted to find out who funded the study.

Known for his advocacy for Japanese whaling, he was asked who he was acting for in making the OIA requests.

He replied with a cartoon he drew of dog droppings.

“Unfortunately, overnight one of the stray dogs in the alley behind the office sneaked in through an open window and took a large dump beneath a colleague's desk,” Inwood wrote.

“I am now required to lean back in my chair, put my feet up on my desk and sip hot coffee while laughing at their predicament. As you will surely agree, this needs my full and undivided attention and I won't be able to find time to reply to your email.”

One of the authors of the university study, Glenn Simmons, says Inwood’s OIA request is an “obvious assault to discover the identities of those participants who have ‘blown the whistle’ on the fisheries industry.”

Inwood had previously issued press statements for Oyang Corporation which last year saw one of its ships, Oyang 70, sink with the loss of six men off the New Zealand coast.

Simmons said investigators acting for unknown people were interviewing survivors in Jakarta , while private investigators in Auckland were questioning MFish observers.

“Inwood’s request is outrageous,” Simmons says.

“Even if it were official information, which I deny, the release of any research material would undoubtedly have a very intrusive and chilling effect on the free and frank discourse between researchers and particularly with participants, which is essential for academic freedom.”

September 18, 2011

Striking fishermen deported penniless

MICHAEL FIELD

Seven Indonesian men who went on strike for the wages they say they haven’t had for two years while working on a Korean fishing boat left the Auckland early this morning without a penny.

Immigration New Zealand gave the crew of the 34-year-old Shin Ji the choice of leaving freely or being deported.

A woman who cared for the crew was emotional at their departure.

“And they haven’t got any of the money they are owed; imagine, working like that for two years and not getting anything,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Another 32 Indonesian crew of the Korean boat Oyang 75 in Lyttelton, who walked off protesting physical abuse, are now also back in Indonesia .

Their removals allow their Korean owners to import new crews to replace them.

In the case of Shin Ji it can now return to sea to fish an eel quota for the New Plymouth Maori tribe Ngati Tama.

Both sets of crewmen have feared returning home where they will face the agents who hired them on behalf of the Korean company Oyang Corporation.

However the union, the International Transport Federation, has had representatives at Jakarta airport this week and it is understood that so far all crew have managed to get through the city unhindered.

Their removal from New Zealand comes despite calls from the Labour and Green Parties that they be allowed to stay to assist a newly formed ministerial inquiry investigating the virtual slave like labour conditions suffered by around 2000 mainly Asian men working 27 foreign charter vessels (FCVs).

An extensive study by the University of Auckland Business School found disturbing levels of inhumane conditions and abuse on FCVs.

The rusting Shin Ji, on prime moorings in front of the new Auckland Events Centre, has a poor reputation.

When crew member Hendra, 30, and the six others arrived two years ago to crew it, they were shocked by what they found.

"When I first saw the Shin Ji, I thought, I'm not going to make it," he said through an interpreter.

"It's an old ship and we always had the feeling that we might be sinking."

On May 26 the men jumped ship because they had not been paid, leaving behind a vessel they say was cockroach-infested and leaky.

The men had been hired by Indonesian agents for as little as $260 a month.

Their money was to go into a bank account in Indonesia . Some of the pay went to their families and they did get bonuses of between $20 and $50 each time they offloaded their cargo in Auckland .

Engine room hand Sakroni said they were paid only $5000 for 22 months, and claimed the captain made one of the young Indonesians massage him every night.

"They pretty much have to do it," Hendra said.

Other crew claim they were subject to sexual abuse with claims the younger male crews were made nightly to massage the large Korean captain.

The captain called them animals and devils, yet Hendra respected his rank. "I am not scared of him, but he is the captain. He has all the power and we have to do what he says. I have to work, but what we found was that we were slaves."

He said one man was killed last year in an eel holding tank. Hendra said when they got to port, New Zealand police took only one statement, and no action was taken.

Sixteen-hour days were expected and one man spoke of working 30 hours straight. Several showed scars they said were from injuries that were the result of tiredness.

Sick leave or rest days were unheard of. Hendra said: "Even if we have very big waves, they keep making us work. It is like modern slavery."

After fleeing the boat, the crew stayed at a motel but ran out of money and food, and had to appeal for help.

26 Aug 201

 

Michael Field

A major Korean fishing company is paying thousands of dollars to private investigators to find out how academics and the Sunday Star-Times are obtaining information on the slave-like conditions aboard foreign fishing vessels.

An executive of Oyang Corp says their lawyers have hired investigators “looking for and now finding” where information is coming from, and including that obtained by a man from a media company: “…he is a very dangerous one”.

The investigators have targeted University of Auckland Business School academics who this week release a daunting report on labour and human rights abuses suffered by 2000 men aboard 27 foreign fishing boats (FCVs) in New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone.

The report focuses on the August 18, 2010, sinking of the Korean boat Oyang 70 which capsized in calm seas 650 kilometres east of Dunedin while fishing Maori iwi quota. Six men died.

Oyang, part of Korea’s giant Sajo Group, say they cannot afford to pay New Zealand minimum wages to their crews – although they tell New Zealand government officials they are doing so.

“If we pay like the kiwi, our business cannot survive. That is why we have to invite in Indonesian crews,” an Oyang official said.

The company say they are losing millions of dollars now that Oyang 75 – bought in to replace 70 – is tied up in Lyttelton with its Indonesian crew refusing to work it.

Private investigators tracked US Ambassador for Trafficked Persons, Luis CdeBaca, as he met with the academics and a Fairfax reporter in Auckland in June.

The academics say they were directly confronted after meeting CdeBaca and had gone on to meet with the crew of another Korean vessel, Shin Ji, which had been fishing for eel until they walked off protesting abuse.

In June a Fairfax car, parked on private property, was broken into and while equipment and a credit card were left behind, a blue tooth hands-free kit that logs calls has gone.

The law firm involved has yet to reply to questions over the activities, but a private investigator previously linked to the firm, denies it was them.

“I do not normally reply to such requests but … I will do so you do not get you or your paper in serious trouble.” (sic)

FCV safety concerns Maritime New Zealand, a government agency, but when we requested their files under the Official Information Act, they demanded a payment of $3040 to see them. Their action has been appealed to the Ombudsman.

In the Auckland University study, senior lecturer Dr Christina Stringer, PhD candidate Glenn Simmons and fisheries consultant and former skipper Daren Coulston interviewed crews and families in two Asian countries and obtained dozens of files using the Official Information Act.

They also have contracts, false time sheets, bank statements and bonus sheets which show New Zealand officials are routinely and systematically lied to over wages and conditions.

They found FCVs engaged in illegal dumping and high grading – throwing quota and by-catch fish overboard in the hope of getting higher value commercial catches later.

The Ministry of Fisheries is yet to decide whether we can see the files on high-grading.

The Business School ’s study shows a ruthless exploitation of crews by fishing companies and the agents who hire them in Indonesia , the Philippines and Vietnam .

A poignant interview is with friends and family of “Eula” a young widow whose husband “Mohammad” – for safety, not their real names - was among six killed in Oyang 70’s sinking.

The widow’s friend said what happened when they saw the agent: “They said husband's insurance money has not come from the Korean agent and if you want to get insurance money, you must sleep with the director of the agency for a few days,” the friend said.

“After (she came) back she cried loudly and could not speak. Then she asked where should she complain, whether there is justice and righteousness on earth”

The widow, who lives a four hour bus drive away from Jakarta, works two weeks in the capital as a cleaner – making NZ$4 a day – and returns to her village once a fortnight for a couple of days.

In 1999 Eula helped her husband “Mohammad” get a job through a manning agent on Oyang 70, with promised earnings of US$280 (NZ$332) a month.

To get the job she had to sell her wedding present gold necklace, to pay a five million rupiah (NZ$700) manning agent fee.

Under the deal, the agent would pay 1.5 million rupiah (NZ$210) each month to Eula and retain the balance until Mohammad returned home at the end of his two year contract. The agent would take up to 50 percent as a fee.

Until the sinking, Elua had to take the bus to Jakarta each month to pick up the money.

After the death of her husband she received nothing more; none of his owed salary or insurance.

Southern Storm Ltd, an Oyang shell company operating the ship, failed to make any applications for Accident Compensation Corporation payments to Eula – as she is entitled to.

Daren Coulston, involved in the university report, helped her make a claim and ACC has told her she is eligible for a hardship payment and reimbursement of funeral expenses.

They will pay her directly.

The university report includes statements from other sailors and witnesses expose what goes on catching New Zealand fish.

 “Officers are vicious bastards … factory manager just rapped this 12 kg stainless steel pan over his head, splits the top of his head, blood pissing out everywhere…,” one informant told the university.

“I told the Master can’t leave him cause he’s bleeding all over the squid. He said ‘oh no no he’s Indonesian no touchy no touchy’… Took him to the bridge and third mate said ‘Indonesian no stitchy no stitchy’. I ended up giving over 26 stitches … bit of a mess.”

Foreign officers sexually abuse Indonesians at sea.

Sunday Star-Times reporting on the fishing industry last month forced Fisheries Minister Phil Heatley and Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson to launch a ministerial inquiry.

Government and fishing industry officials have been quietly alarmed as the scale and detail of the Business School study has become known.

“We found within the fisheries value chain there is an institutional void pertaining to labour standards on board FCVs and in many cases disturbing levels of inhumane conditions and practices have become institutionalised,” the authors say.

Oyang is known to be under heavy pressure from other FCV users and operators.

The Koreans believe that the Department of Labour’s Immigration Service will act at their behest to cancel visas and deport any of their crews arguing over conditions.

In the past crews protesting conditions, have quickly been deported but publicity in the cases of Oyang 75 and Shin Ji have prevented this happening.

Oyang warns their crews that once back in Indonesia , the agents will seize their property, and that of their families, and that they will go to jail for a long time.

July 8, 2011

 

Families of fishing crew face backlash

Poverty-stricken Indonesian families of 32 men refusing to crew a Lyttelton-based Korean fishing boat have been summoned to Jakarta tomorrow to face agents who hired the crew on slave wage rates. The crew of the Oyang 75 walked off three weeks ago claiming they were severely abused, prompting the vessel's charterer, Southern Storm Fishing, and agent, Pete Dawson Fisheries Consultancy, to seek deportation orders.

 

US seeks answers on abuse of crews

Sunday Star-Times investigations into slave-like conditions on fishing boats in New Zealand waters have roused the interest of the US State Department. The United States is sending a top diplomat to Wellington to discuss issues raised in a State Department report, released on Thursday.

 

 

May 24,2011

MAORI have been warned by the government about the way they are using aging foreign charter fishing boats to catch their Treaty of Waitangi quotas.

"Maori are in a unique position to lead the debate on the use of foreign fishing vessels as they are big users," Fisheries Minister Phil Heatley told the Maori fisheries Conference in Nelson.

He said the foreign charter vessels (FCVs) were "well past their use-by-date" .

His warning followed reporting by the Sunday Star-Times which revealed Maori deep-sea fishing, once touted as an economic savour for Maori, now depends on Asian and Ukrainian FCVs where conditions are akin to sweatshops.

Government attempts to moderate the use of FCVs has been resisted by some iwi who say without them they cannot fish.

Iwi rent out their quota to operators who use FCVs with most of the catch shipped to China for processing.

The around 2500 men who work them are from poor Third World areas are beaten and forced to work for days without rest, earning between $260 and $460 a month.

Conditions came into focus following last August's sinking of the 38-year-old FCV Oyang 70 followed four months later when the 31-year-old No. 1 Insung, operating out of Bluff sank in the Ross Sea with the loss of 22 men.

In ad lib remarks at the conference, Mr Heatley, admitted for the first time that there is a problem.

"On one hand, complete 'no-use' of foreign crew may seriously devalue your quota especially if the New Zealand fleet is unable to sustainably catch all the available fish, leaving valuable New Zealand exports in the water."

This would drive down New Zealand export earnings, and the price of the "annual catch entitlement" Maori received.

"On the other hand, many of your youth who do not have jobs could very well be fishing.

"This cannot be ignored. You need to identify where the right balance is, you need to think this through."

Mr Heatley said this year the total fish quota is valued at more than $4 billion with Maori controlling 37 percent of it, as a result of a 1992 Deed of Settlement with the government reached in treaty settlements.

He said there was a growing global demand for sustainably fished and independently verified seafood.

"Maori-owned companies are in an especially good place to take advantage of this demand.

"What's good for Maori businesses is good for New Zealand businesses and collaboration and innovation are key to economic success."

Last month Maori Affairs Minister Peter Sharples said it "would not be appropriate for the government to interfere in their decision-making" over the use of FCVs.

But he said Maori landowners "try to balance commercial, social and cultural imperatives in the way they manage their lands."

Labour MP Shane Jones, who helped negotiation the original treaty deal, told Waatea Radio that iwi are not doing enough to ensure fair working conditions on foreign fishing boats that catch their quota for them.

"I don't think anyone, when we conceived and executed the Sealord fisheries settlement, ever imagined that Maori quota would be swooped upon and used by unscrupulous agents as a basis for enriching themselves but treating Ukrainians and Asians as a form of slave labour and unless the iwi quota owners can hop on top of their days of flicking the quota on for a quick buck may be very well coming to an end," he told Waatea.

mjf

 

May 5, 2011

Michael Field

Maori are losing of their multi-million dollar fishing industry to Pakeha-dominated companies using aging Asian charter fishing boats.

But tribal leadership is largely mute on how their deep-sea fishing, once touted as an economic savour for Maori, now depends on Asian and Ukrainian foreign charter vessels (FCVs) turned into horrific and violent high seas sweatshops.

One of Maori's leading operators had admitted to the government, Maori fishing will close down without FCVs.

Iwi rent out their quota to operators who use FCVs with most of the catch shipped to China for processing.

The around 2500 men who work them are from poor Third World areas are beaten and forced to work for days without rest, earning between $260 and $460 a month.

The largest iwi, Ngapuhi, set up a 50/50 joint-venture company, Northland Deepwater JV Ltd, with DSM Ltd, an Auckland company with no Maori connections.

They use FCVs and papers obtained under the Official Information Act show they have lobbied government to keep the right to use the aging vessels.

Hawke's Bay's Ngati Kahungunu has just opted out of fishing their own quota but when asked why, official Aramanu Ropiha replied: "There are protocols of courtesy should media wish to engage with Ngati Kahungunu. Should this iwi opt to make a statement, a written press release will be issued."

No statement has been received.

Ngati Kahungunu used to work with 29-and-26-year-old Korean boats with mainly Asian sweatshop labour but have now switched to a deal with Northland Deepwater.

The Bangkok office of the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking has slammed FCVs, saying "this kind of thing must be stopped."

Ngati Kahungunu's prominent lawyer Moana Jackson is however focussed on the human rights of Maori claiming they have suffered human rights abuses and has taken their claims to the United Nations.

Last year an official of the UN Human Rights Commission Samia Slimane sat on a Ngati Kahungunu board meeting but use of sweatshop labour was not discussed.

Northland Deepwater CEO Peter Dawson did not return calls but OIA papers include a four page submission he wrote resisting any attempts to improve conditions aboard FCVs.

"We have been in this business (FCVs) for 23 years and have watched them evolve from being the only source of catching our deepwater species to a 'necessary evil' which some companies would like to banish from our shores, and yet they acknowledge that they cannot afford to catch with domestic vessels," Dawson wrote.

Companies using FCVs were not making a profit and any additional costs would close them down.

"This has major consequence for Maori as FCVs are the only way they can participate and be involved in the activity of fishing," Dawson said.

If forced out of using the cheap foreign boats, Maori would end up being "passive lessors" of their catch.

"We have over the years added hundreds of thousands of dollars to the value to the (catch) we receive from Ngaphui - something we could not have done without access to a FCV."

Labour MP Shane Jones, who helped negotiation the original treaty deal, told Waatea Radio that iwi are not doing enough to ensure fair working conditions on foreign fishing boats that catch their quota for them.

"I don't think anyone, when we conceived and executed the Sealord fisheries settlement, ever imagined that Maori quota would be swooped upon and used by unscrupulous agents as a basis for enriching themselves but treating Ukrainians and Asians as a form of slave labour and unless the iwi quota owners can hop on top of their days of flicking the quota on for a quick buck may be very well coming to an end," he told Waatea.

Maori Affairs Minister Peter Sharples said it "would not be appropriate for the Government to interfere in their decision-making".

But he said Maori landowners "try to balance commercial, social and cultural imperatives in the way they manage their lands."

Tainu's Raukura Moana Fisheries Ltd use aging Ukrainian boats while the South Island's Ngai Tahu no longer engage directly in deep water fishing.

Ngati Porou Seafoods in Gisborne admit they have no boats and use FCVs, including at one stage the ill-fated Korean boat Oyang 70 owned by the Sajo Oyang Corporation of Korea and fishing Maori quota, sank with the loss of six lives last August.

Many of the iwi using FCVs can be blind to the actual boats being used to catch their quota as arrangements go through various brokers and companies.

As a result of a 1992 Deed of Settlement with the government, under Treaty settlements, Maori now control 37 per cent of the fishing quota. Maori formed the pan tribal Aotearoa Fisheries Limited (AFL), made up of a 50 per cent shareholding in Sealord Fisheries as well as ownership of four other companies.

Maori own half of Sealords, the other half at the time held by Brierley Investments. They sold their share to Nissui, a major shareholder in Japan's Antarctic whaling fleet.

mjf

April 18, 2011

Michael Field

IWI are being forced to use aging low wage foreign charter vessels (FCV) to fish their quotas because they do not have enough rights to justify buying their own boats, the head of the key Maori fishing organisation.

Government papers have shown that decaying Asian and Ukraine boats turned into high seas sweatshops are taking a large part of New Zealand's annual $1.4 billion catch, with their Third World crews beaten and forced to work for days without rest, earning between $260 and $460 a month.

Under Waitangi Treaty settlements 57 iwi are taking 40 per cent of the quota and most of them are using the boats.

Te Ohu Kai Moana Trustee Ltd CEO Peter Douglas said iwi did not have sufficient quota to be able to successfully invest in fishing vessels and establish production facilities.

He said some iwi were considering working collectively in future.

"There is insufficient capacity in New Zealand owned and manned boats to catch the full amount able to be caught sustainably," Mr Douglas said.

If New Zealand is to harvest the agreed commercial catch, more boats are needed, but individual quota owners, including iwi, do not have sufficient quota to purchase and operate boats economically.

"In this situation many quota owners including iwi utilise foreign charter vessels," Mr Douglas said.

Last year 21 FCV operated on New Zealand waters, most utilising Maori quota. This included the Korean ship Oyang 70 which sank off Dunedin last year with the loss of six crew.

The latest issue of the monthly maritime magazine Professional Skipper claims in an editorial it is up to Maori to halt the use of old foreign charter boats.

"While we have New Zealand ships owned and manned by Kiwis, some of Maori descent, they cannot get to lease this quota because it all goes to the foreign boats who can fish for less cost, meaning more profit for Maori," the magazine says.

"By this action alone, Maori are condoning one of the biggest fishing scandals at sea, and turn a convenient blind eye after determining any loss of catch on a sinking ship will not affect their cash payments."

While Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson and Fishing Minister Phil Heatley deny problems exist around FCVs, a leaked email from a top fisheries official, Aoife Ann Martin, reveals a special multi-agency project team has been set up since our exposure of the FCV slavery.

"At this stage no changes to existing policies are being contemplated," Ms Martin advised.

"However, it is possible that the project may identify areas where policy reviews could be considered."

Meanwhile a Ministry of Fisheries report obtained under the Official Information Act reveals much of New Zealand's fish are shipped straight to China for processing and then shipped back to supermarkets here.

Hundreds of Chinese women are paid pittance to pick bones out of fish because New Zealanders will not.

The report written under contract by Dr Christina Stringer of the University of Auckland business school says New Zealand processing plants are closing and companies are tying up boats and switching to FCVs.

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Michael Field

A FORMER police officer who interviewed survivors of the fishing boat Oyang 70, which sank with the loss of six lives last August, says the ``poor buggers'' were treated ``appallingly''.

The woman, who has since left the police, spoke after last week's Sunday Star-Times investigation into conditions on foreign-owned fishing boats that amount to little more than slavery.

She says she was livid at the treatment the men received on being brought ashore in Christchurch after they were rescued when the Korean boat, owned by the Sajo Oyang Corporation and fishing Maori quota, sank 650km east of Dunedin on August 18.

``They were treated appallingly. Those poor buggers in that motel, they were starving.''

She said as far as she could see: ``They were given one change of clothes, no money. Their food was a lot of boxes of noodles and water, and they were not given anything else."

"One crewman said he was starving. I presumed he was talking about on the ship, in fact he said it was since they had come to Christchurch.''

The ex-officer said it appeared to her that the survivors, some of whom had not seen their families for over a year, couldn't leave the rooms and had no money.

``They said they lost $200 to $1000, and they did not appear to exaggerate. Some had seen their friends die and were traumatised. They were scared about what was going to happen, and about going home with nothing.''

The claims have been disputed by Oyang 70 agent Pete Dawson, who sent the Sunday Star-Times a lawyer's letter saying the allegations were ``utterly and demonstrably false''.

Asked for, Dawson replied through lawyer Mike Sullivan that the ``scurrilous allegations'' were being made by people ``pursuing their own agendas''.

Sullivan said the crew were free to come and go, were regularly visited by embassy officials and were provided with clothing.

He said the food provided consisted of ``substantially more than just noodles'' and each crew member received $1300 before going home as ``compensation for lost items''.

Meanwhile, a leader of the Christchurch Indonesian community said they helped the men. ``It was hard for them not to cry when people who never knew them bought them food,'' she said.

The look on the faces of the men had stayed with her.

``Survivor guilt you have to deal with. But the fact they went through the sinking and help was not available. When I saw the crew it was like when you experience life and death, you can see their faces, even without talking, you could sense it.''

The 45 survivors were rescued by the Amaltal Atlantis, owned by Nelson's Talley's Fisheries. When it docked in Lyttelton, media were kept back, and when one person tried to take a photo, the camera was seized, apparently for ``coronial reasons'' since Police and Maritime New Zealand wanted to interview the men.

One eyewitness said churchmen were there.

``Our town has been sheltered from the whole thing, the townsfolk know nothing. It was a revelation, I had no idea this kind of thing was going on.''

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Michael Field

What sank the rusting Korean boat Oyang 70 is likely to remain an official secret but informed sources say it is no mystery.

"Those people died because of greed," the police official said.

Its captain, Shin Hyeon Gi, 42, caused the sinking by overloading the net and when he realised what he did, went down with his ship.

"When the captain went down with the ship, there was no fight for him," the official said.

"He stood on the bridge and went down with the ship, because he did it."

The crew, who kept telling him the load was pulling the boat down, were unwilling to argue.

"They were very scared of the captain, even when they told him they were too scared of reprisals."

Witnesses saw him standing on the bridge, arms folded, as the ship sank.

"He just stood there looking out."

The others were rescued by Amaltal Atlantis from Talley's Fisheries in Nelson.

MNZ confirmed seven FCVs were in the area and said five of them "provided active assistance".

This is denied by a number of sources, including Talley. 

MNZ investigated the sinking but its report will not be made public as their authority does not extend beyond the old 12-mile territorial water limit.

The Korea Maritime Safety Agency has not responded to inquiries for their report, although the South Korean Embassy in Wellington has asked the Sunday Star-Times for our documents.

No date has been set for a Coroner's Court inquest.

Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson said the Labour Department had a regular audit programme on labour standards aboard fishing boats.

"The point the United Nations raises about the difficulties language barriers can bring in enabling crews to speak out about any problems is very true," she said.

"These workers aren't New Zealand citizens, aren't employed on New Zealand-operated vessels, they often don't speak English and leave our waters once fishing is finished."

She said it was important that any evidence of mistreatment of crews, of unsafe vessels or unsound fishing be passed on to authorities.

"Where a foreign vessel is found to be abusing our laws it can be stopped from operating here."

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Michael Field

High level witnesses to the transhipment of Asian slave labour through port have revealed the horror they felt they were seeing and shock at the willing blindness New Zealanders show over it.

"Looking back now I can see mafia type behaviour in keeping men as slaves on board ships," a civilian source told over treatment of 45 men in Lyttelton.

The men had been rescued after the Korean boat Oyang 70 owned by the Sajo Oyang Corporation of Korea and fishing Maori quota, sank with the loss of six lives, 650 kilometres east of Dunedin on August 18.

The survivors were kept in a motel for police interviews between August 20 and August 23 with no proper clothing, food or money.

The company refused a gift for the men of the equivalent of NZ$21,000 saying they would be looked after.

A leader of the Christchurch Indonesian community says they got help to the men.

"It was obvious that when we gave them that food that they had not seen rice for a very long time. It was hard for them not to cry when a group of people who never knew them bought them food," she said.

Details have emerged following publication last week by the Sunday Star-Times of secret government background papers which revealed decaying Asian foreign charter vessels (FCVs) fishing boats turned into horrific and violent sweatshops.

The around 2500 men from poor Third World areas are beaten and forced to work for days without rest, earning between $260 and $460 a month.

Fishing Minister Phil Heatley and Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson deny anything untoward.

As the Oyang survivors came ashore, surrounded by private security guards paid for by the Korean owner of the ship, a police officer was in a "deep rage" over what was taking place and the way state agencies were working with the owners.

"There was no kindness for them, they were treated like animals," a police source said.

Parties do not want their names used fearing they could lose the ability to help exploited fishermen in the future.

Amaltal Atlantis, owned by Nelson's Talley's Fisheries, rescued the survivors of Oyang 70.

"None of the other joint venture boats would come to help," Talley's CEO Peter Talley said last week.

Amaltal Atlantis docked in Lyttelton just before dawn on August 20, greeted by Oyang agent Peter Dawson and a phalanx of security guards.

Media were kept back and when one person on the dock tried to take a photo the camera was seized.

Dawson said the security was necessary for "coronial reasons" as both Police and Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) wanted to interview crews for an inquest.

Police closed the Lyttelton tunnel so media could not follow where the company took the survivors too.

The civilian on the dock says that while Christian, Muslim and Maori churchmen were there, it was a charade to cover an "ugly underbelly....

"Our town has been totally sheltered from the whole thing, the townsfolk know nothing It was a total revelation, I had no idea this kind of thing was going on."

The men were taken to a Riccarton motel while police and security guards secured the area.

A police officer who interviewed some of the survivors was livid.

"They were treated appallingly," the now ex-officer said.

"Those poor buggers in that motel room, they were starving.

They were given one change of clothes, no money. There food was a lot of boxes of noodles and water they were not given any thing else...

"One crewman I interviewed said he was starving. I presumed he was talking about on the ship, in fact when questioned further he said it was since they had come to Christchurch."

They could not leave the rooms and had no money.

The survivors had not seen their families for over a year.

"The money they said they lost was between $200-$1000. None spoken to appeared to over inflate or exaggerate what they had lost.

``The fishermen I interviewed appeared quite traumatized; some had seen their friends die.

``They were scared about what was going to happen, scared about going home with nothing for their families."

Police challenged Dawson in the presence of other people, including Indonesian interpreters.

"He said, when asked about giving the men just noodles and water 'So? That's what they eat.'

"He did not deny the allegation and showed nothing but contempt."

He was asked about the losses the men had suffered.

He said: "They'd say the crown jewels went down with the boat. They're just lying bastards."

The Indonesian community leader said the whole thing had left them angry, sad and appalled by "what I saw at the place."

The company had given the men light cotton clothes in August, with just one set of underwear.

"They were given just instant noodles and fizzy drink and crackers."

The motel rooms only had an electric kettle to boil water for the noodles, no other cooking material.

Only when the community intervened were they given rice and chicken.

The men got no other help.

"Survivor guilt was one thing, you have to deal with that, but the fact they went through the sinking ship and help was not available until the Talley boat to help," the community leader said.

"What I saw, I've never been in a situation like this and when I saw the crew to help out, it was like when you experience life and death, you can see their face, they were distraught and sad. Even without talking you can sense it"

The Koreans kept trying to stop them from helping.

"We were angry we were being pushed, the Koreans and the company were saying we have nothing to do with this and they do not want the Indonesian community to come help. We knew, what happened, the first thing as a human being is offer help for what you can. That was rejected, that was considered as interference."

The Christchurch Indonesians also raised money for families of the dead. Although passed through the Indonesian Embassy, they have no idea whether they got the money.

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Oyang 70 agent Pete Dawson, through a lawyer denies any wrong doing saying "all of the allegations are utterly and demonstrably false".

Asked for comment in an email, he replied through lawyer Mike Sullivan of Ocean Law New Zealand.

"These are not the first fictitious and scurrilous allegations made by parties who purport to be acting in the interests of crew members but who are in fact pursing their own agenda," Sullivan wrote.

He said claims that the crew were not fed on the ship adequately were shown to be false "following our client's production of extensive receipts relating to food"

He said the Oyang crew said they wished to be repatriated "as promptly as possible."

Sullivan said the crew were free to come and go at the Riccarton Motel, they were regularly visited by embassy officials and "were provided with ample clothing during their short stay at the motel".

He said "that all reasonable requests for food and clothing were in fact met, ample food was provided and consisted of substantially more than just noodles."

Sullivan said each crew member received cash of $1300 prior to departing for the airport "in compensation for lost items in their cabins (without requiring proof of the substance of these claims)."

He said Dawson "knows nothing of any offer of any money made by any international seamen's group and nor was any such offer turned down."

"It stretches credibility to believe that throughout this period when these crew members were in constant regular contact with New Zealand authorities, embassy representatives and their own lawyer, that they 'failed' to mention these allegations.

"That should be a strong indicator to you of the veracity of these allegations," Sullivan wrote.

"Please be advised that if you persist with publishing these false allegations, our client will respond in an appropriate manner, including but not limited to proceedings for defamation."

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The Sunday Star-Times expose of slavery left our reader panel shocked.

Around 2700 readers took part, answering a question: "Do you think that these foreign owned fishing vessels, fishing in New Zealand waters for New Zealanders, should be required to meet the same employment standards as the New Zealand owned and operated vessels?"

The result was clear: 89 per cent said yes, nine percent no with 476 people not taking part.

Comments offered were strong: "The present situation whereby chartered vessels operate with foreign crews on slave level wages and conditions is a scandal."

* "It is disgraceful that rich iwi corporations are exploiting poor foreigners."

* "I feel, because they get away with poor wages and conditions they are taking jobs off our fishermen, the whole industry has suffered, we should be using NZ boats and NZ fishermen."

* "Disgusting what is happening aboard foreign vessels. An embarrassment to our country and our government is simply closing their eyes to it!"

* "I think that the type of exploitation being employed by the so called 'agents' of the NZ Companies engaging these vessels is damaging to NZ's reputation and is morally reprehensible."

* "Any NZ company who used these vessels knowing the conditions under which they are working should have their products boycotted."

* "It is shameful that people from poorer countries are still treated like cattle by companies wanting to make a quick buck."

One writer said he had worked on the boats in the 90s.

"So far the anecdotes I've read are only the tip of the iceberg.

"Hot-bunking is common.

"Young Indonesians (18-19) employed as sex slaves/ factory workers for $200 a month. Serious injuries common.

"Indonesian crew reduced to eating squid off the factory equipment. The wild west has nothing on these guys and the NZ company bosses knew perfectly well what went on."

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April 8, 2011

Michael Field

A United Nation's expert on human trafficking has called for New Zealand to act over allegations of slavery on foreign charter boats fishing mainly Maori quota in exclusive economic zone.

It comes as both the Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson and the Fishing Minister Phil Heatley deny there is any problem with the around 2500 men working in sweatshop conditions on 21 aging Asian boats.

The Sunday Star Times reported the men are beaten and forced to work for days without rest, earning between $260 and $460 a month.

Their catch, worth around $300 million a year, is marketed to the world as "Produce of New Zealand" .

Matt Friedman, regional programme manager in Bangkok for the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking says"this kind of thing must be stopped."

He says while there are good and bad boats and it was hard to police because crews spoke languages not spoken by authorities.

"Governments don't like to tinker around with industries that add to their economy," Mr Friedman said.

"The trick is to stop the slave boats without hurting the legitimate businesses."

He said there were 26 million people living in slavery circumstances.

"Many people don't know about this problem. Unlike trafficking into the sex industry, this industry is just now being exposed.

"But slavery onto boats appears to be a common problem all over the world."

A newly formed Hong Kong anti-slavery group, The Mekong Club, says New Zealanders should not be surprise at what is happening.

"The extreme slavery found within the Asian fishing industry festers just off our shores," New Zealander Jude Mannion who helped found the group says.

"Every day, young men are tricked onto boats believing they can work a few months to make good money to send home.

"But the reality is that many are held on boats for years; often beaten, drugged, forced to work seven days a week and thrown overboard if they become sick or roublesome. And to add insult to injury, they receive no money after returning to port," Ms Mannion said

"It's possible that what we are discovering here is the tip of a highly exploitative economic model that is growing within our region."

Mr Heatley told Parliament there was not a problem and said the previous Labour Government had made changes to the law that were "entirely adequate" .

Mrs Wilkinson said the Labour Department had a regular audit programme on labour standards aboard fishing boats.

"The point the UN raises about the difficulties language barriers can bring in enabling crews to speak out about any problems is very true," she said.

"These workers aren't New Zealand citizens, aren't employed on New Zealand-operated vessels, they often don't speak English and leave our waters once fishing is finished."

She said it was important that any evidence of mistreatment of crews, of unsafe vessels or unsound fishing be passed on to authorities.

"Where a foreign vessel is found to be abusing our laws it can be stopped from operating here."

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April 1, 2011

Michael Field

Decaying Asian fishing boats turned into horrific and violent high seas sweatshops are taking a large part of New Zealand's annual $1.4 billion catch, secret government background papers reveal.

The around 2500 men from poor Third World areas are beaten and forced to work for days without rest, earning between $260 and $460 a month.

But they do not get even that; the files, obtained under the Official Information Act, show the government knows ruthless agents in Asia take half of the wages in commissions.

The foreign charter vessels (FCV) -  21 in the last year - are hired by New Zealand companies exploiting quota granted to Maori under Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

Their catch, worth around $300 million a year, is marketed to the world as "Produce of New Zealand" .

Sweatshop labour competes with New Zealanders on the same waters as companies like Nelson's Talley's Fisheries - the fourth largest fishing company - complain about what they see as the immorality of it all.

CEO Peter Talley says officials know the horror stories but all they've done is to set basic standards for the New Zealand observers on FCVs.

"They did not give a tuppenny care about the Filipinos, the Indonesians and the Ukrainians on the vessels."

New Zealand's appalling reputation was known globally in the industry.

"We are getting lots and lots of calls from Indonesians calling for help, Ukrainians calling for help."

Government papers obtained under OIA requests reveal a long and high level awareness of what is going on.

One government official reported on interviewing crewmen who told him they had never worked in such bad conditions.

"If these tales are correct, and I have no strong reason to doubt them, the conditions amount to little more than 'sweatshop' ones,," he warned the government.

FCV skippers hold onto passports so crews would not flee what one official termed high levels of violence.

"They have received feedback from some crew members suggesting they are hit with pieces of wood, and crew members have even been hit on the hands with a hammer," one paper said of interviews with crew from a ship whose name is censored.

Crews are physically abused, hit with the hand, a fist and in cases with fish: "Does not seem to matter if they are actually doing anything wrong.

"If anyone stands against this abuse, it has been known for them to be taken to a private cabin and beaten. Individual crew members are very reluctant to draw this sort of attention to themselves."

On one boat a crewman with stomach Tb was given no help until fishing was completed and when finally put ashore the man had to stay in hospital for three weeks.

A crewman suffered appendicitis and received no help.

"(Crews) work when the fish are running, and are sometimes forced to work two or three days without a break.... If fish are not running they are sometimes not provided with an evening meal."

On one boat three men working in the freezer were injured.

"One worker suffered frostbite from working in the freezer, bad enough to require hospital treatment in Timaru; when he returned to the vessel he was made to remove dressings and get on with work."

Conditions came into focus following last August's sinking of the 38-year-old Oyang 70 followed four months later when the 31-year-old No. 1 Insung, operating out of Bluff sank in the Ross Sea with the loss of 22 men.

Sources involved say families of the six crew lost on Oyang were mostly robbed of their insurance money by agents in Indonesia while the Vietnamese on Insung earned as little as $238 a month, with deductions for agents fees, food and cigarettes extracted from that.

A Talley's boat, Amaltal Atlantis, rescued the Oyang survivors 650 kilometres east of Dunedin. Other foreign boats ignored the distress.

"None of the other joint venture boats would come to help, they would't come to help," Talley says.

"They wouldn't knock off fishing. We were the only one who that put the man overboard rafts into the sea ... we picked up 41 of them... It is a crime, you are supposed to go the aid of anyone in distress but these guys are outside the law."

The foreign boats were old and none of their rescues boats were capable of running.

"Life means nothing to them."

His claim is reflected in a government report recounting another unnamed FCV losing a crewman overboard and not looking for him because they had no functional rescue craft.

A New Zealand ship looked fruitlessly instead.

The government official noted that safety tenders are compulsory on New Zealand vessels.

Talley says New Zealand fishing is like the Wild West and getting worse.

"I think because of the higher price of the fuel around the world, and as more of these boats get displaced, New Zealand is ending up as the junk yard for these fleets... I think I can say without fear of contraction that nothing has improved one little bit and things in many way have got markedly worse."

Talley's, with a fleet of 11 ships, pays its crews New Zealand rates and the company makes a profit.

"You would be amazed at the money these boys on our boats are making."

Deckhands and factory workers on New Zealand boats earn between $40,000 and $80,000 a year.

FCVs are chartered by New Zealand registered companies, in the case of doomed Oyang 70, Southern Storm (2007) Ltd. At the time of the sinking 45 per cent of the shares were held by Seoul's Oyang Corporation.

Even as searchers were still looking for the missing later the same day, the corporation had itself removed as a shareholder, leaving the company wholly owned by Hyun Gwan Choi.

Quota holders without their own boats hire FCVs

Talley says unscrupulous FCV operators are using a business model that doesn't require access to capital, confirmed access to catching entitlements, ownership of processing factories or ownership of fishing craft.

"People are knowingly saying 'I don't pay the crew, I just charter the boat with the crew provided by an agent and the agent over there is telling me he is paying full wages."

The whole thing was wrecking the viability of New Zealand fishing.

"Currently all one needs in an office, a secretary, a tough lawyer and you are in the fishing business.... But it is not good for New Zealand."

Government officials show concern that the low wages paid on FCVs might become public.

A Department of Labour report, obtained via an OIA, has people and boat names censored out, but show that crews were not being paid the minimum wage, even before deductions.

Crew agents take 40 to 50 per cent of the wage, papers show.

The study says if the fishermen were paid the minimum wage they should be getting $1400 a month.

Officials imply this is unacceptable because it is three to five times the amount an Indonesian deckhand might expect to make elsewhere.

Jennifer Devlin of the University of Auckland in the Australian and New Zealand Maritime Law Journal questioned how New Zealand countenanced"the exploitation of vulnerable workers in pursuit of profits for New Zealand fishing interests?"

She pointed to an incident when 10 Indonesian fishermen escaped from the Korean vessel Sky 75 moored in Nelson.

"They were fed rotten meat and vegetables, told to 'shower' by standing on deck amid the waves, made to continue working when sick or injured and were constantly beaten and sworn at. They endured all this for wages of US$200 per months: wages that weren't being paid."

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Michael Field

When it comes to the dark side of deep sea fishing, politicians quickly delegate.

Asked to comment on allegations of sweatshopping, Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Phil Heatley moved the buck along to officials of other departments.

Describing the issues as "operational" , comment was offered by the acting head of immigration, Stephen Dunstan.

He claimed that since 2006 the government has had a revised Code of Practice for foreign crews, requiring crew employment agreements to"align with New Zealand standards, and that employment disputes should be settled in New Zealand employment institutions."

Code compliance is monitored by the Department of Labour who carry out regular audit programmes.

They also check wage and time records to "help identify if any non-permissible deductions have been made from crew wages" .

"The Code of Practice requires payment of minimum wage plus $2 per hour for actual hours worked, but in no case less than 42 hours per week over the course of the engagement (i.e. if 42 hours are not worked).

"Deductions may not take wages below the minimum wage for all hours worked."

Asked why there had been no prosecutions for numerous safety and work place offenses Dunstan said it was the responsibility of Maritime NZ (MNZ). They did not say why there had been no prosecutions.

MNZ says the average age of FCVs is 25 years while the average age of the domestic deepwater fleet is 22 years.

"All FCVs operating in NZ waters must also meet the same vessel safety management and environmental protection standards as NZ ships," the statement says.

Meanwhile the Transport Accident Investigation Commission was involved reviewing both the Oyang 70 and No 1 Insung sinkings, but there reports will not be made public as their authority does not extend beyond the old 12-mile territorial water limit.

Under international law the responsibility for the final reports lies with the flag state, in this case the Korea Maritime Safety Agency.

Maritime sources say they have completed their inquiries.

They failed to answer an email as to the fate of their investigation.

Meanwhile in 2008, the powerful Seafood Industry Council said in a submission to government, revealed in the OIA requests, that they had "long held concerns as to the condition and behaviour of some foreign charter vessels."

This week in a statement the council now claims charter vessel crew members "are paid above the New Zealand minimum wage at a net rate worth the equivalent of $18.00 an hour."

It said while charter boats were not new, "their age profile is not out of line with that of the rest of New Zealand's fishing fleet."

 

 

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