Fishing firm directors face human trafficking charges

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Fishing firm directors face human trafficking charges

WALVIS BAY – The police are in the process of formulating charges and possibly charge directors of a Namibian-registered fishing company after two of its vessels were impounded and a 60-member crew rescued last Monday. 

The directors of Nata Fishing Enterprise could be charged with trafficking in persons, Contravening of Labour Act, Contravening of Immigration Control Act, Contravening of the Marine Resources Act and possible fraud under common law. 

 The 60-member crew, according to police investigations, has been on the two vessels since 2018 and were subjected to harsh working conditions without legal documentation or proper medical care. 

National police spokesperson Kauna Shikwambi on Friday said that there were 30 crew members on each vessel namely, 35 Philippines, two Taiwanese nationals, Chinese (two), Indonesians (three), Vietnamese (two), Mozambicans (four), four Angolans and eight Namibians. 

They were working on the Namibian longline vessels MV Shang Fu and Nata 2. According to her, the vessels were initially detected on 22 June by the Namibian Fisheries Observers and the police while patrolling in the Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) Namibian seawater. 

“They came across the vessel and upon boarding, they detected that the vessel was in violation of the Namibian fisheries and marine resources laws,” said Shikwambi. “There was no observer on board as required by Sec. 7 (2) (a) of Marine Resources Act 27 of 2000, neither a valid non-observer authorisation letter as required under regulation 33 (2) of Marine Resources Regulation 7/12/2001, no copy of the Marine Act 27 of 2000 and copy of Marine Resources Regulation 7.12.2001 as required by Regulation 27(1)(d) of Marine Resources Act.” 

Further investigations according to her, also showed that the crew were maltreated, worked for long hours and were even forced to work while sick. The vessels also did not have medical officers and blankets on board, she said. 

“The Namibians and Angolans had valid documents, however, the remaining 48 which includes the captains, mate, chief mate, chief engineers and a second engineer are all suspected to be victims of human trafficking. An investigation is currently underway and is conducted by all relevant stakeholders,” she added. 

Meanwhile, CEO of the Fisheries Observers Agency Stanley Ndara on Friday said that they were never informed about the vessels at sea, hence there was no observer on board.  “Similarly no authorisation was granted to them to sail without an observer. November 2020 was the last time they were authorised,” Ndara said. 

Attempts to reach the fishing company proved futile at the weekend. The crew is currently being cared for at a safe location in Henties Bay.