Authorities swoop on fishing boat

Police and government agencies have swooped on a Timaru chartered fishing boat to investigate allegations of excessive working hours and safety issues.

Officers from Immigration New Zealand, the police and Maritime New Zealand made an unannounced visit to the Sur Este 707 at the Port of Timaru on Monday in a co-ordinated operation.

The Korean-flagged fishing boat is chartered by Timaru company South East Resources.

Company director Murray Williamson said legal advice was being sought while employment issues were worked through with the 21 Indonesian crew, who had been fishing for squid.

"We don't know when it will be departing, it will depend on the outcome [of the investigation].

"It is just the beginning of the squid season. Some of it is processed in New Zealand and other sold frozen to China."

South East Resources operates two other Korean charters, Sur Este 700 and 709, which are all owned by Dong Nam Co, of South Korea.

Nelson lawyer Peter Dawson has confirmed he was acting for the crew to ensure they were fully paid their entitlements, with the 21 opting to return home to Indonesia, leaving six Korean officers on board.

The investigation follows information provided by a fishery observer who was on the vessel last week. The observer noted issues with vessel safety, excessive hours of work by crew and falsification of crew time records.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment fraud and compliance manager Dean Blakemore said the vessel could be kept in port for close to three weeks.

"The Timaru firm is a subcontractor which looks after the vessel while it is New Zealand for the Korean owners.

"The dispute is mainly between the hours the crew are supposed to be working and what they are actually working. It could be in port for up to three weeks while the vessel is made safe to go to sea and to get a new crew."

In May the Government announced that all foreign-owned vessels operating in New Zealand waters will be reflagged to New Zealand after a four-year transition, meaning they will be subject to the full range of New Zealand law - including employment relations and workplace health and safety law.

Foreign crews will be protected during the four-year transition period with stronger monitoring and enforcement, including tougher independent audits of the New Zealand charter parties.

The Timaru Herald