The New York Times has an exposé on Step Up Marine, a manning agency operating out of Singapore’s Chinatown, and its network of recruiters in neighbouring countries. Young men are deceived and entrapped into horrendously abusive jobs on fishing trawlers, including Eril Andrade who died at sea. Court papers in the Philippines point the finger clearly at Step Up Marine but little is done from the Singapore end to bring the perpetrators to justice.
TWC2 board member Shelley Thio, who has been fighting for justice for the Andrade family, is quoted in this story: “It’s lies and cheating on land, then beatings and death at sea, then shame and debt when these men get home …. And the manning agencies are what make it all possible.”
John Gee, head of research at TWC2, points out that there is a need for stronger measures to protect fishermen — a group of workers particularly inadequately protected by international law. He adds,
There is a legal gap. An ILO convention on fishermen was passed in 2007, but has only been ratified by seven countries so far. I’m sure that a determined attack on the problem can yield some solutions. The plea that “any offence has taken place outside our jurisdiction, so we can’t do anything about it” seems questionable. If it was found that a legal Singapore arms trader had sold weapons to ISIS, I suspect that a means would be found to prosecute him. Singapore law already enables the prosecution of Singaporeans who sexually abuse children while in other countries. It should not take a great deal of ingenuity to find ways of dealing with trafficking into the fishing industry.
… the argument that trafficking is a process and should constitute an offence at all its stages should be pursued. Even to be involved at one stage of the process ought to render a person open to prosecution.
See also, New York Times reporter Ian Urbina’s personal essay about the year he spent researching this story in Human trafficking at sea: Reporter’s notebook.