Video of Burial At Sea Highlights Risks for Indonesian Fishermen

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In a series of three videos uploaded to Facebook, an Indonesian seafarer named Suwarno Canö Swe accused the operators of a Chinese fishing vessel of abusing their Indonesian deckhands, resulting in injury and death. 

According to Suwarno, the Indonesian crew of the vessel Luqing Yuan Yu 623 suffered abuse at the hands of the vessel’s operators, including kicking and hitting with glass bottles. He asserted that the crew were effectively held in a condition of slavery, and that one was beaten until he was paralyzed. 

One video shows a seafarer apparently unable to walk and being physically lifted by his shipmates. A second shows Chinese-speaking crewmembers covering what appears to be a human body in cloth wrapping. The third shows a wrapped, body-shaped object being tossed over the rail. 


The alleged burial at sea occurred in the vicinity of Somali waters, according to Suwarno’s post.

According to the account, the deceased’s crewmates have since been transferred to a different fishing vessel, the Lu Huang Yuan Yu 115, and have not been permitted to return home. As of May 15, the Lu Huang Yuan Yu 115 was transiting east through the Singapore Strait, according to AIS data.

No vessel matching the name Luqing Yuan Yu 623 appears in shipping and fishery registries, but a similarly-named vessel is registered with the FAO, WCPFC, IATTC and Equasis databases. Equasis records a total of about five dozen fishing vessels named Lu Qing Yuan Yu or Qing Yuan Yu, all operated by a series of Qingdao-based firms. 

In a statement issued Sunday, the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it had reached out to Suwarno to get more details about the alleged abuses. In addition, the ministry said that is in contact with Indonesian seafarers’ associations, crewing agents and Chinese authorities to shed more light on the incident. 

It is the second viral video depicting alleged burial at sea evolutions involving Indonesian seafarers aboard Chinese fishing vessels in recent months. In an expose published by South Korea’s Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), two Indonesian seafarers described poor working and living conditions aboard a Chinese vessel. An accompanying bystander video depicted a burial at sea. 

Shortly after MBC’s report, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi confirmed that four Indonesian seafarers had recently lost their lives aboard (or shortly after disembarking) the Chinese fishing vessel Long Xin 629. Three were buried at sea.