Friday, May 16, 2008
Thirteen foreign crewmen of Japanese coastal tuna boats have run away over the past six months, bringing the total number of missing foreign fishermen to 127 since 2003, according to transport ministry officials. The 13 crewmen are Indonesians who came to Japan under the "maru ship" system, which was introduced in 2003 to allow foreigners to work aboard Japanese fishing boats to cover the acute shortage of labor in the nation's fishing industry and to enhance its competitiveness. The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has found that the 13 crewmen ran away from ports at Shiogama in Miyagi Prefecture, Nachikatsuura in Wakayama Prefecture and Choshi in Chiba Prefecture between late October and April, according to the officials.Most of the 127 are believed to have come to Japan to secure other jobs by taking advantage of the easy procedures to work on boats under the system. Some were found doing agricultural work in Ibaraki and other prefectures. Since a series of cases involving missing foreign fishermen was made public in October, a national association of coastal bonito and tuna fishing operators has taken steps to prevent further incidents, including stepping up foot patrols at ports. However, their efforts have proved ineffective, partly because of brokers who arrange jobs for illegal workers.