Fishing charges for Oyang 75 officers point to industry wide failings

The Maritime Union says it will raise the situation of the Oyang 75 fishery prosecutions when it appears before a hearing tomorrow (Monday 17 October) for the Government Inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels in the New Zealand fishing industry.

Investigations by the Ministry of Fisheries have led to 26 charges being laid against five Korean officers including the captain of the Oyang 75.

The Ministry of Fisheries reported on 13 October that the commercial fishing vessel Oyang 75 had sailed from Port Lyttelton.

The first court date for the officers is in the Christchurch District Court on 17 November 2011.

Depending on the outcome, the Oyang 75 may become forfeit to the New Zealand Government, according to the Ministry, and a bond had been placed on the vessel.

Maritime Union of New Zealand General Secretary Joe Fleetwood says the union is pressing for a complete overhaul of fisheries regulations and the removal of foreign charter vessels from the New Zealand fishing industry.

“We have come to expect this type of thing from so many of these foreign chartered vessels operating in joint ventures. The pattern of worker exploitation and environmental plunder are two faces of the same coin.”

But Mr Fleetwood says the blame is getting placed on crews, while the corporate executives at the top of the “food chain” were walking away with profits from rotten and unethical practices.

“Once again we see crews taking the rap and getting charged, but everything they do will be a result of getting immense pressure on from the charterers and the ship owners who demand profit at all cost.”

“The system is set up so the big operators keep their distance from the dirty end of things.”

Mr Fleetwood says compared to other maritime disasters recently, this may seem small time, but it showed how lax standards and the deregulated open coast policy promoted by Government and business were the norm in the maritime industry.

“This is where the problems can be tracked back to, right to the top of New Zealand’s political and business establishment.”

Mr Fleetwood says the history of the Oyang 75 and its doomed predecessor the Oyang 70 made amazing reading and it was a travesty any vessels from this company were still allowed on the New Zealand coast.

The Wellington hearings for the Inquiry will be held in the Grand Chancellor Meeting Room, Hotel Grand Chancellor James Cook, 147 The Terrace, Wellington from 10 am to 4 pm on Monday, 17 October.

The Maritime Union will be making its presentation at 1.15pm.

Background to the Oyang 75

The company responsible for chartering Oyang 75, Southern Storm Fishing, were the charterers of the vessel Oyang 70 that sank in 2010 off New Zealand with the deaths of six crew.

In May 2011, Southern Storm Fishing held a “media event” in Dunedin where television journalists from both main networks were invited on board to inspect their new replacement vessel, the Oyang 75.

But less than two months later, the crew of the new flagship of their fleet have abandoned the Oyang 75 en masse in Lyttelton, claiming physical and verbal abuse and underpayment.

A pattern of activities has been identified by the Maritime Union going back several years, in relation to the operations of Southern Storm Fishing and their vessels and crews.

ShinJi and Mr Hyun Choi

Department of Labour was reported earlier this year as investigating claims of abuse and underpayment of crew on ShinJi.

Crew members told media they left the vessel in Auckland due to underpayment and mistreatment.

The Shin Ji is chartered by Christchurch-based Tu Ere Fishing, which went into voluntary administration earlier in 2011.

A director of the company was Hyun Choi, also a director of Southern Storm Fishing.

In 2009 the ITF and Maritime Union investigated the Shin Ji after 12 Indonesian crew left the vessel.

The reasons they gave for leaving the vessel were non payment of wages, problems with harassment from officers, and substandard living and working conditions.

ITF inspector Grahame MacLaren reported a number of problems – “the vessel was in need of a good clean and there were large areas of rust on the deck in the galley, no bed linen, no hot water with the crew expected to shower in cold sea water. We also pointed out that the life rafts were almost inaccessible due to fishing gear being stowed all around them.”

NZ$52,776 in back pay was secured for the crew by the ITF and the crew were repatriated back to Indonesia despite initial resistance from the charterers.

Southern Storm media promotion

Southern Storm represented by publicist Glenn Inwood of Omeka Communications in Oyang 75 media promotion in May 2011.

Inwood’s previous clients have included Japanese whaling industry and tobacco companies.

The $1000 “Bounty”

An advertisement placed in the Otago Daily Times in 2007 offers an $1000 bounty for information about missing crew member Kismo Pakistan who left his vessel the FV Oyang 70 in Dunedin on 5 June 2007.

The contact listed in the advertisement was Fisheries Consultancy Limited of Lyttelton and the advertisement was authorized by Southern Storm Fishing (2007) Limited of Christchurch.

Breach of RMA

In 2009 Southern Storm was found guilty of breaching the Resource Management Act following an oil spill from the Oyang 70 in Port Nelson.

They contested that they were not the responsible party, but the judge found otherwise.

Sinking of Oyang 70

Southern Storm chartered vessel Oyang 70 sinks on 18 August 2010, 400 nautical miles off Otago coast. Six crew drowned.

Surviving crew kept away from media when taken ashore. The crew were then bussed to a secret location, with police closing the Lyttelton tunnel so a media contingent could not follow the survivors’ bus through to Christchurch.

A former police officer involved in the case stated that crew were “treated appallingly” (Sunday Star Times, 12 April 2011).

“All the survivors came with the same story, and they all said they were hauling a bag of fish,” says Greg Lyall, captain of the Amaltal Atlantis, who rescued the survivors.

“The vessel lent over to one side – the factory filled up with water and the engine room filled up with water. There were no alarms, no lighting, nothing, and within 10 minutes the boat was gone and most of them had to swim to the life rafts.”


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