Shipping Giant to Stop Using Myanmar’s Military-Owned Port

By Nan Lwin 9 October 2020

YANGON — The world’s largest shipping company, Maersk, will cut ties with the military-owned ports in Myanmar this month over allegations of war crimes against the Rohingya in Rakhine State.

The Danish shipping company said it is committed to serving businesses in Myanmar as it has done since the lifting of international sanctions in 2013.

Maersk announced on Thursday that the last voyage to TMT Ports will be on Oct. 14 and Oct. 15. It said after the last voyage, the services will shift permanently to the Myanmar Industrial Port terminal.

More than 730,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh after a crackdown in August 2017 which the United Nations called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

Myanmar’s military denies the allegations, insisting the crackdown was a response to coordinated attacks on security posts in Rakhine State by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.

Burma Campaign UK (BCUK) said in May that Maersk was placed on the group’s “dirty list” after its container ship, MCC Mergui, used the military-owned TMT Ports in Yangon, which is managed by the British company, Portia Management Services.

TMT Ports is owned by the military-business conglomerate, Myanma Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL). In 2016, KT Services and Logistics Co. Limited leased a 9.7-hectare terminal and later signed up Portia to manage the port for five years. According to BCUK, the military owns three commercial ports in Yangon: TMT Ports, Hteedan Port Terminal and Ahlone International Port.

In July, Portia announced it would not renew its contract managing TMT Ports in Yangon when it expires in 2021 after receiving pressure from rights groups.

Mark Farmaner, director of BCUK, said Maersk’s decision is a “highly significant move”, increasing pressure on other shipping companies to do the same.

BCUK has added shipping companies to its so-called dirty list for doing business with Myanmar’s military and its enterprises. The list included three companies from Greece, Eastern Mediterranean Maritime, Capital Ship Management Corporation and Eurobulk.

The German companies Interscan Schiffahrts, MPC Capital and Harren and Partner are also on the list. The Evergreen Group from Taiwan, FGAS Petrol from Vietnam, Express Financial Ventures from Panama, Interasia Lines from Hong Kong and Norse Group based in Singapore and the UK are also on the group’s list.

BCUK said more shipping companies will be added to the list later this year.

Myanmar’s military operates its wide-ranging business interests through two conglomerates, MEHL and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC). Last year, the human rights groups launched a campaign to force international companies to cut ties with Myanmar’s military.

A UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar has urged the international community to cut ties with the military and its associated companies. It said: “Any foreign business activity involving the Tatmadaw [military] and its conglomerates, MEHL and MEC, poses a high risk of contributing to, or being linked to, violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.”

You may also like these stories:

Japan Firms Shift Focus to SE Asia Due to US-China Row

UK Rights Group Expands ‘Dirty List’ of Companies with Ties to Myanmar Army 

So Far, Signs Point to Improved Supervision of Myanmar’s Election by UEC