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Myanmar seamen urged to be careful before signing on for work

Myanmar seamen urged to be careful before signing on for work
Tint Zaw Tun 27 Feb 2020

Seamen should review their contracts with shipowners to avoid getting into trouble in other countries, a leader of a local seafarer’s union said Wednesday, after it was reported that China has jailed 63 Myanmar sailors for smuggling.

U Soe Min Aung, chair of the Myanmar Seamen’s Federation, said it is important for seamen to know their contracts, especially if their ships are headed to China.

He said the 63 Myanmar sailors ended up in a Chinese prison even though they may not have known their ships were carrying illegal goods.

“Their ships may have had all the proper documents,” he said, “but they may have been carrying contraband, so Myanmar seamen should know what is on their ships before they sign on.”

The Myanmar Embassy in Beijing has appealed to Chinese authorities to release the 63 sailors on humanitarian grounds, amid reports that some prisons in China have reported cases of the deadly COVID-19 virus.

U Htay Aung, owner of manpower agent Leader Marine, said that when sailors are arrested in foreign countries, only the shipowner can legally represent them. He said the government should intercede for Myanmar sailors who get into trouble in foreign countries.

U Bo Hnin, a veteran ship captain, said most sailors do not know what their ships are transporting.

“When shipments are seized by port authorities, the owners or consignees of the goods usually flee and the sailors are arrested,” he said. Some of the sailors are imprisoned for up to one and a half years, he added.

The Department of Myanmar Marine Administration announced a list of 36 ships detained for smuggling illegal goods around the world last December. Last month, the government suspended the licences of the sailors who were aboard the ships. – Translated