Asia Defense

Indonesia’s Navy Captures Elusive ‘Slave Ship’

Jakarta catches a vessel allegedly involved in slave labor in the fishing sector.

Indonesia’s Navy Captures Elusive ‘Slave Ship’

Members of Indonesia’s Navy Band during CARAT exercises with the United States.

Credit: US Navy Photo

On August 13, the Indonesian Navy pursued and seized a vessel believed to have been involved in slave labor in the fishing sector.

Following a weeklong chase by Indonesian authorities, the Thai-owned Silver Sea 2 believed to be loaded with slave-caught fish was located late Wednesday and escorted about 80 miles to a naval base, where it was found to not possess the right paperwork.

“I’m so overwhelmed with happiness,” Indonesia’s Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti told The Associated Press. “It was almost impossible, but we did it”. She added that the boat captain would be questioned and that an investigation would be launched into human trafficking, offloading at sea and the transport of illegal fish.

Indonesia’s pursuit and seizure of the vessel is in line with a broader crackdown on illegal fishing instituted under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, a practice which he says costs the country annual losses of over $20 billion a year (See: “Explaining Indonesia’s ‘Sink the Vessels’ Policy Under Jokowi”). Indeed, as I reported earlier this week, Indonesia plans to blow up 70 foreign ships when the country celebrates the 70th year of its independence on August 17 – the largest mass public sinking of foreign vessels under Jokowi’s tenure thus far (See: “Why is Indonesia Sinking 70 Foreign Vessels on its Independence Day?”).

Slave labor in the fishing sector is hardly a new phenomenon in Southeast Asia. But the issue has once again been in the limelight over the past few months, with particular attention on Thailand’s abuse-ridden, labor-starved fishing industry which has been subject to growing international furor (See: “Thailand Won’t Send Prisoners Into the Sea”). Earlier this year, the European Union had threatened Bangkok with a trade ban due to shortcomings in its fisheries monitoring, control and sanctioning systems (See: “EU Threatens Thailand With Trade Ban”).

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

Panya Luangsomboon, owner of Silver Sea Reefer Co. which owns several refrigerated cargo ships in Thailand, told AP Friday that the company had done nothing illegal. However, the news wire agency noted that its own investigation had revealed that enslaved workers who had returned home to Myanmar had confessed to regularly loading fish onto Silver Sea cargo ships and said they had been trafficked in Thailand and brought to fish in Indonesia aboard Silver Sea 2.