Norway: Investigation into death of a fisherman spotlights inhumane working conditions on fishing boats

Author: Dagbladet Magasinet, Published on: 17 December 2018

"THE DEADLIEST CATCH", 11 Dec 2018

Dmitry Kravchenko went to Båtsfjord in Finnmark to ensure his family's future. On September 4 this year he disappeared at sea. The death of the snow crab fisherman helps to uncover inhumane conditions on the fishing boats...

Dagbladet Magasinet has obtained access to notes of concern, reports, court documents, letters to unions and regulators, and pay raise requests, all of which pertain to the Baltic snow crab fishing fleet...

The Norwegian Coast Guard has heard similar stories from this snow crab fleet. Several of the fishermen say they had to pay a lot to get a job off the Norwegian coast...

Dagbladet Magasinet has confronted the shipowners and relevant companies with the seamen’s evidence of the working conditions, but got no response. However, one of the captains of snow crab vessels did respond to our inquiry...

On the phone he denies that the conditions on board are, or have been, as critical as Dmitry and former crewmembers have described.

- ... This is neither slavery nor human trafficking... The working conditions are in the contract. Working on a boat is very hard... But I promise you: people earn well on these boats.., says the captain.

He will not comment on the allegations of the crew about scarce or bad food. He says he is not aware that crews have received death threats or been fooled by agents...

"Kalmar" and "Valka" are owned by the Baltjura-serviss company... According to the Latvian business register, [...] Baltjura-serviss is owned by a small Lithuanian company, Turijanus...

Dagbladet Magasinet tries again to get the CEO of Baltjura-serviss Aleksandras Ramanauskas to comment on the allegations of social dumping...

- I will not answer any questions. I have my PR advisor in Riga. You know that very well, says Ramanauskas...

Nor does the parent company Turijanus respond to Dagbladet Magasinet's inquiries.

[T]he company's spokesman..., Šmits sends a text message to a journalist in Latvia who has assisted Dagbladet Magasinet..:

«Hi. There will be no comment from me. These 'colleagues' from Dagbladet work for the Norwegian government against the interests of the Latvian state. I think you know this very well. They spread lies and falsify information (...) I urge you and all other colleagues not to betray your country's interests, and not to work with these 'gentlemen' on this case!»...

When Dagbladet Magasinet finally gets hold of a Mayking Management representative, the man who signed the employment contract with Dmitry, it is on an African phone number:

- Hi. Unfortunately, I have no time to talk about this now, he says...

Norwegian lawyer Sigmund Zwilgmeyer Berg has assisted several Russian seamen in Norway who have not been paid wages they were due for the snow crab fishing in the Barents Sea. He says he sees a pattern from a number of cases where obscure wording of employer conditions is used as a way to avoid responsibility...

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