25 September 2022

A Portrait of the Vulnerability of Indonesian Seafaring Migrant Workers

Through the study “Portrait of the Vulnerability of Seafarers Fishing on Foreign Ships: Legal, Human Rights (HAM) and Institutional Review”, IOJI offers a number of recommendations for the government to strengthen the protection and empowerment of Indonesian Seafaring Migrant Workers (PMI PP).

The supply of fish in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is decreasing. The decrease in the number of fish has pushed fishing actors to shift out of the EEZ of the relevant country to enter the sea areas that are not included in the jurisdiction of any country or high seas.

In the end, they don’t hesitate—or they don’t even realize it because of the absence of a qualified navigation device, although it rarely happens—to break through other countries’ EEZ. Most of them board long-distance fishing boats or long-distance fishing water fleets.

Being able to survive in the middle of the sea for a long period of time, long-distance fishing vessels require their owners to incur enormous operational costs. This means that there are several other cost components that must be reduced so that the ship does not have to frequently enter and leave the workshop.

Of the many components of expenditure, the most obvious reduction that shipowners make is this: labor costs. Reducing the cost of labor is one of a number of factors contributing to modern slavery— an estimated 25 million people are victims of modern slavery in the fishing and agriculture sectors.

On the sea, a no-wall place with vague boundaries, human slavery spirals out of control.

Add to that the legal framework that has not been effective in providing full protection for maritime migrant workers. It could be that slavery is getting more massive and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for maritime migrant workers to find a way out.

Towards Effective and Equitable Protection

In the study “Portrait of the Vulnerability of Seafarers Working in Foreign Ships: Legal, Human Rights and Institutional Reviews” published in 2022, the Indonesia Ocean Justice Initiative (IOJI) found legal frameworks at the international, regional and national levels that were inconsistent with each other.

This condition triggers the emergence of new problems in protection practices for PMI PP who are already vulnerable to experiencing slavery practices at sea. IOJI recorded several years of violations against PMI PP, including exploitation in the selection and job placement process, work contracts and dispute resolution that was not in their favor.

Through this in-depth study with expert observers from Stanford University, United States of America, IOJI recommended a number of improvements to the legal framework and protective governance. Recommendations are expected to restore PMI PP’s bargaining position which is often low in dispute resolution.

At the national level, IOJI recommends the mandatory existence of collective bargaining accompanied by standard work agreements for PMI PP and standard working conditions on board according to ILO C-188—the convention on work in fishing. Not only the legal framework at the national level, IOJI also recommends restoration of a foothold at the regional and international levels.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Law and Human Rights “need to encourage cooperation at the ASEAN level to create standards for equal rights for migrant fishery workers at the regional level,” IOJI noted in the recommendation.

While at the international level, “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs needs to push for the ratification and implementation of ILO C-188, STCW-F 1995 (Training, Certification and Watchkeeping Services Standards for Fishing Vessel Crews) and CTA 2012 (Cape Town agreement on the safety of fishery workers) at the regional and global levels so that it can be applied universally.” 

Read the full study and press release



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