Photo courtesy from Mongabay/Milko Schvartzman
The company that opens the door of Montevideo to Chinese ships with illegal records
Thursday, February 02, 2023, 07:00 (GMT + 9)
The following is an excerpt from an article published by Mongabay:
The Port of Montevideo is the one most used by the ships of the Chinese fleet in Latin America, according to a report by the NGO OceanoSanos.
Although it is the government of Uruguay that determines who can use the services of the port, there is another key actor: the maritime agencies that are the legal representatives of the ship owner in the foreign country.
In the Port of Montevideo, the company Verny S.A is the main maritime agency in assisting Chinese-flagged vessels, some of which have a history of illegal fishing and human rights violations.
Every year, a huge fleet of about 300 Chinese-flagged vessels fish off the South American seas. It repeats a route that goes from the South Atlantic, off Argentina, to the outskirts of the Galapagos, in the Pacific, passing through Chile and Peru. In their trajectories, some vessels have been caught fishing illegally and some have even been accused of human rights violations. For these reasons, in addition to the enormous amounts of fishing resources that are caught by these boats and that often go unreported, the operations of the Chinese fleet in the region are a matter of concern for scientists, marine conservation specialists, and even authorities.
According to an investigation carried out by the Argentine NGO, OceanoSanos, in the region, the main port used by the Chinese fleet is Montevideo, in Uruguay, which is also used by Spanish, Korean and Panamanian vessels, among others. Annually, this port terminal receives, on average, about 300 foreign fishing boats.
According to the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, Uruguay is among the top 25 countries in the world in terms of efforts to counter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. And it is that this country is one of the signatories of the United Nations Agreement on Port State Measures (AMERP), which obliges the Port of Montevideo to only give access to ships that prove that all their catches were legal and reported.
Photo: Mongabay/Port Authority Montevideo
But is this really effective? Experts question this since the Port of Montevideo, the only one with a free port regime in the region, which means more lax tax regulations, is one of the most visited globally by transshipment ships which, as has been recognized the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), encourage illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. These are large refrigerated vessels, also called reefers, that receive fishing from smaller vessels on the high seas, allowing them to empty their cargo without having to return to the mainland, so that they can continue fishing uninterruptedly for long periods of time.
This activity of transferring the fish from one ship to another is one of the most used strategies for illegal fishing, says the FAO, considering that in the holds of refrigerated ships the catch from numerous ships is mixed, preventing it from being tracked.
Photo: Mongabay/Milko Schvartzman
Mongabay Latam, with the support of the Uruguayan newspaper Sudestada, accessed information from the Port of Montevideo and verified that fishing boats and reefers with a history of illegal fishing have arrived there. In addition, the port terminal has also received fleets reported for labor abuse and human trafficking.
"We have detected cases of labor abuses on ships that arrive at the Port of Montevideo, such as excessive working hours without rest periods, disparities in wages, informality in contracts, and physical and verbal abuse," says Jessica Sparks, a labor abuse researcher at Ports from the University of Nottingham. Even, according to figures from the Uruguayan Prefecture, a total of 59 deceased crew members were disembarked in the port between 2013 and 2021.
Chinese jiggers mooring in Montevideo.Photo: Milko Schvartzman
Although it is the government of Uruguay that determines who can use the port's services, there is another actor that is also gaining importance and has been less identified so far. Maritime agencies are the representatives of foreign fishing vessels in the country and who make all their efforts against the Uruguayan state to be able to enter the Port of Montevideo.
The company Verny SA is the maritime agency that appears most frequently associated with foreign ships with a history of illegal fishing and labor abuses. (continues...)
Author/Source : Fermin Koop, Michelle Carrere / Mongabay | Read the full article by clicking the link here