Prevention of Forced Labor for Crews of Fishing Vessels in Bitung City
bitung fishing

Bitung City in North Sulawesi is one of Indonesia’s tuna fishing industry hubs. At the Bitung oceanic fishing port and the surrounding buffer ports, there are currently 1,074 fishing vessels ranging in size from 1-200 Gross Tons engaged in fishing and unloading operations. In supporting the operations of these fishing vessels, currently there are 8,000 fishing vessel crew working in the city of Bitung. There are also fishing vessel crew from Bitung who work in places other than the region, such as Muara Baru Jakarta, Benoa, Bali, and Dobo, Aru Islands, Maluku, and those who work abroad as migrant fishing vessel crew, particularly in Taiwan.

Meanwhile, on the downstream side, Bitung City currently has 22 large and medium-sized fish processing companies or industries in operation. The processing industry produces frozen products, fresh tuna, wood fish, and canned fish. Based on the portrait and conditions described above, it is undeniable that fishing vessel crew is a profession and a viable option for some residents of Bitung City. According to the Bitung Fishers Center report, some of the most prominent and frequently reported fishing vessel crew cases in 2020 were salary deductions, unpaid salaries, social security, and work safety.

Based on this, Destructive Fishing Watch (DFW) Indonesia has encouraged and facilitated the Aertembaga Village Circular Letter regarding the Aertembaga Village Crew Protection System for Fishing Vessels in the series of implementation of the SAFE Seas Project in Bitung city. This circular letter is intended as a form of preventing fishing boat crews from being trapped in the practice of forced labor and human trafficking on fishing vessels.

read more : 35 Indonesian Migrant Fishing Vessel Crew Die Abroad

According to Laode Hardiani, DFW Indonesia’s field facilitator for the SAFE Seas Project, the circular was a form of breakthrough and innovation by the sub-district government to minimize, prevent, and monitor the movement of residents who would work on domestic and migrant fishing vessels. “The circular letter is a method of preventing forced labor and educating Bitung residents who will work in the fishing industry because it contains terms and conditions for domestic fishing vessel crew, migrants, ship owners, and domestic fishing companies in recruiting fishing vessel crew,” Laode Hardiani explained.

The requirements for fishing vessel crews who will work on domestic fishing vessels are outlined in Aertembaga Satu Village Circular Letter No. 09/SE/AGA I/VII/2021, dated June 29, 2021. These requirements include being at least eighteen years old and possessing a personal identity card, being physically and mentally healthy as determined by the results of a health examination, possessing a seaman’s book, possessing a skills certificate, possessing a social security participant card, and possessing a sea work agreement. Meanwhile, for migrant fishing vessel crew, the above provisions are added to the requirement that they have a passport and visa, as well as report to the village office at the time of departure and return.

Enggelien Selvia Kojoh, the head of Aertembaga Satu Village, stated that she welcomes and supports the circular letter as a form of attention from the Bitung city government in providing protection to fishing boat crews. “Aertembaga Satu Village is one of the pockets and suppliers of fishing vessel crew in Bitung fishing companies, so we need to provide them with early protection,” Selvia explained. This circular letter will then be distributed to residents, and the village government will collect data and set up a registration or self-report system for fishing vessel crew who work on domestic and migrant fishing vessels.

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The National Coordinator of DFW Indonesia, Moh Abdi Suhufan said that the village circular letter is a non-binding arrangement but still refers to the provisions of the marine and fisheries sector legislation. “In 2020, the Indonesian government has issued a law. No. 11/2020 concerning Job Creation and, Government Regulation No. 27/2021 concerning the Implementation of Marine Affairs and Fisheries which is expected to strengthen Indonesian fisheries governance,” said Abdi.


However, because rule and regulation implementation is a bureaucratic disease in Indonesia, there must be an effort to encourage positive changes at the local village level so that they have care and responsibility in protecting citizens, particularly those who work as crew members on domestic fishing vessels and migrants.

The SAFE Seas Project, funded by the United States Department of Labor (USDOL), aims to improve the safety of fishing boat crews by bringing together a diverse range of stakeholders to promote fair and transparent supply chains in the fishing industry between the private and public sectors. As implementation partners, the SAFE Seas Project works with the Plan International Indonesia Foundation and Destructive Fishing Watch (DFW) Indonesia.

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