Crew seeking help after being stuck on ship for 2 months

A crew of 10 sailors have reached out for help after being stuck at anchor off the Port of Taichung for two months in poor living conditions and often suffering food and water shortages.

“The ship is like a jail. It’s like being under arrest, like human trafficking,” the ship’s master, Saw Aungcho, told Taiwan English News.

The crew consists of 7 Myanmar nationals and three Indonesians. They are onboard the MV Xing Guang 168 (IMO 8859536, call sign 9LU2317).

Saw Aungcho first contacted Taiwan English News September 17 saying: “We don’t know what to do. We have no food, no fresh water. We have requested permission to berth from Taichung Port Authority. Also requests to Taiwan Coast Guard, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ITF, police. Nobody helps us. The [crew manning] agent always lies, ignores us, and never keeps his promise. I’ve never seen a ship like this.”

The following day, September 18, Saw Aungcho contacted us again saying that the Indonesian embassy had come and supplied the crew with enough food and water to last them about one week.

Today, September 28, Saw Aungcho made contact again, supplying documents and information related to the case.

Saw Aungcho wrote that the ship’s managers have made them anchor very far from shore so the crew can’t get network access, and can’t contact their families very often.

In a document that appears to have been written prior to September 20, but only received by Taiwan English News today, with the title “Request for help,” Saw Aungcho said that the crew was originally scheduled to return to Myanmar by a Taipei to Yangon flight July 26, “but we have missed the relief flight due to our agents ignorance.”

“We are eagerly waiting for another Taipei to Yangon relief flight which is going to fly on September 20 … we really don’t want to miss that flight, and are worrying about it.”

“That update was announced by the Myanmar Consulate-General, Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR, on August 25,” the document states.

“However, our ship anchored at Taichung City “S” Anchorage area, Taiwan since July 29.”

“Our agent kept giving us promises to arrange sign off several times.”

“We have requested many times to sign off since we arrived on the ship, as their business is illegal in China.”

In another message received today, Saw Aungcho wrote:

“We dropped anchor at Taichung “S” anchorage two months ago.”

“It has been very difficult on board with food shortages and often a lack of fresh water.”

The crew has not been paid a salary for two months. According to the minimum safe manning document, the ship’s living space is designed for just six people, but there are 11 people onboard.

The crew’s agent has sent e-tickets to fly Taipei to Yangon October 4, but the agent is also ordering the crew to sail the ship to a point 20 miles away to be supplied with fuel, before sailing back to the Port of Taichung.

“It will take just one or two days, and the estimated sign off date will be the end of this month,” the agent wrote in a Line message seen by Taiwan English News.

The crew is refusing to do this.

“Weather is very bad. Impossible to ship to ship fueling at 20 miles. Present fuel on board is enough for berthing. Fresh water for engine cooling is very little. Not safe for sailing out from Taichung. Need to supply fresh water first,” the ship’s master responded.

Saw Aungcho told Taiwan English News that there is not enough fuel to sail away from port, and that it is not safe to do so. “There are not enough life jackets for each crew member,” Saw said.

“The life raft, EPIRB, and SART are expired. It’s not safe to sail out from Taichung Harbor.”

text messages relating to case

“Tomorrow, September 29, we have to take a COVID-19 PCR Test, so today we should be alongside the wharf.”

“Every crew member has completed their contract and have been onboard for more than one year. Everybody wants to go home.”

“Please help us get permission for berthing. At least we can buy ourselves food and drinking water.”

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