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Blurring the lines of politicised trade and seafarers’ welfare


A Chinese importer’s goods withheld from allegations of forced labour onboard 32 vessels

It is already tough to confirm the allegations about China using forced labour; given diplomats are denied entry to carry out investigations. Going by the theory of “innocent till proven guilty”, a Chinese fleet was ironically slapped with a ban on their import based on allegations of slavery across 32 vessels.

Intended flash point?
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced its immediate detention on Dalian Ocean Fishing’s stock at United States’ port of entry. The CBP official added the withhold release order is applicable to other end-use products from the company.

Early this year, China was accused of using forced labour in its Xinjiang cotton production – which is also yet to be proven. The added pressure on China by the United States can only accelerate the flash point. CBP claimed its investigations revealed Dalian Ocean Fishing vessels’ conditions were a far cry from expectations; physical violence, withholding of pay, debt bondage and abusive working and living conditions.

Under this circumstance, the million-dollar question is if the concern is genuinely for the benefit of seafarers operating onboard. It would not be surprising seafarers’ welfare is used as a decoy to suppress China’s export capacity to the country. If seafarers’ wellbeing are indeed of importance to them, the allegation of wealthy countries hoarding vaccines would not even surface.

At this point, the debate about rich nations not sharing vaccines with the lower-income countries is a hot button issue. China took the opportunity to collaborate with the lower-incomed countries by donating and selling vaccines. The icing on the cake is the vaccine being single-dosed. The underwater current (at least to the world at large) is clear that China does extend provisions to seafarers. The only issue is if the nation that needs it the most now is still resisting for the wrong reasons.


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