Kenyan Crew Mistreated on IUU Listed MARWAN 1

By Stop Illegal Fishing:10th Dec, 2020: FISH-i Africa

In April 2019 an unlicensed Kenyan shipping agent recruited thirteen crewmembers to work on the fishing vessel MARWAN 1 in Somalia. The MARWAN 1 was confirmed through photographs taken during EUNAVFOR patrols to be the previously named CHAICHANACHOKE 8 and subsequently AL WESAM 4, an Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) listed vessel with recorded offences related to human trafficking and illegal fishing.

The agent, Seaport Operations Limited is not listed among the five recruitment agencies licensed to recruit and place maritime workers on behalf of the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA). They also failed to deposit the names of those recruited with the KMA and Seafarers Union of Kenya (SUK), a requirement of Kenyan law. Seaport Operations human resources director was Andrew Mwangura a former Secretary General of the SUK, at the time a well-known and trusted person among fishers and seafarers in Kenya.

The crew travelled to Bossaso, Somalia to board the MARWAN 1, once on board they were subjected to poor treatment, working up to 20 hours a day, deprived of food and medical treatment, and living and sleeping in the open. “We never knew peace. Right from day one when we embarked on the fishing voyage, things did not add up,” said Mittau Makau, who was working as bosun on MARWAN 1.

A confrontation between the Captain and crew led to them being deprived food for two days, threats of being locked in the cold store, and that all Kenyan crew would be shot. Recalling the experience Mohamed Abdalla Juma said, “As soon as Marwan 1 left anchorage and began to fish trouble started. The captain and the first mate expected us to work 24-hours without a break. When we refused to work in the minus fifty degrees celsius cold storage without proper clothing we were threatened with an AK-47 assault rifle and denied food.”

Another crewmember, Omar Gakurya reports being confronted, slapped and threatened with a gun by his employer on board the ship. “At one time the employer ordered that all the food that had been prepared for us be thrown away as he brandished a gun. We worked under deplorable conditions on board the ship.”

Unable to contact Seaport Operations, the crew placed a distress call to the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) in Kenya. With assistance from the Kenyan ambassador to Somalia a rescue operation was organised. They were forced to disembark the MARWAN 1 away from a designated port and the crew travelled through rough waters on a small vessel. On reaching land they had a nine-hour journey through Al Shabab controlled territory before reaching Garowe.

Despite the successful voyage of the MARWAN 1 that landed a record 275 tons of fish including 20 tons of prawns, when the Kenyan crew finally received some wages, after deductions these were between USD 450-500 per crew for four months work. This only allowed the crew to buy airfares to return to Kenya. On arrival back in Kenya after their difficult and dangerous journey the KMA warned that stern action would be taken against unlicensed and unregistered recruitment agents. Though to date it appears that no action has been taken against Seaport Operations.

The MARWAN 1 is still operational, fishing in the Somali EEZ outside Puntland and calling in port in Yemen. Puntland has in recent years become a haven for illegal fishing vessels causing regional and international concern.

All port States are asked to be on alert for the MARWAN 1, which is regarded as high-risk and a priority for inspection.

The FISH-i InvestigationMisery on the MARWAN 1‘ can be downloaded here.

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