The Ghost Fleet is a documentary feature that uncovers the vast injustice of slavery in the Thai Fishing Industry through thrilling escape stories.

Thailand supplies a large portion of America's seafood. But Thailand's giant fishing fleet is chronically short tens of thousands of fishermen per year. Human traffickers have stepped in, selling captives from the region to the captains for a few hundred dollars each. Once at sea, the men may never return to land - unless they escape.

Slave ships, trafficking gangs, and heroic escapes behind the world's seafood.

 

The Ghost Fleet will introduce audiences this strange, watery underworld through several characters’ eyes, bringing viewers deep into the lives of escaped slaves, corrupt officials, unlikely heroes and those working to end slavery on the sea. 

Our project has begun production in Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo and Cambodia, following several characters, locations and storylines. At its core though, This is the story of how a few men--a farmer, a motorcycle mechanic, a construction worker who were lured onto boats, trapped at sea, and against all odds escaped to freedom.

One was on a boat for 7 years without seeing land before he escaped. Another was sold onto a boat with his son and together they pulled off a hair raising and miraculous escape. One man, Asorasak, had escaped into the forests of Borneo before being taken in by a benevolent family of fisherman who raised him as their own for three years before he had an opportunity to go home. We gained access to this journey home and have reconnected him to his family, capturing a truly rare and emotional moment.  

We have followed the man who runs a hotline for Burmese migrants, operated by Project Issara, twenty four hours a day, from his cell phone and can connect his story to those on the other end of the line. We may also work with everyday citizens in Thailand or Burma who go undercover to document and expose the trafficking gangs working in their area or embed with the police as they make arrests. 

We will search the beaches where men swim to shore, check out the brothels where men are drugged before waking up on board, travel to villages in Myanmar (Burma) and Cambodia virtually empty of men and sail to remote islands where captains are rumored to drop off slaves they no longer want. We’ll also provide an investigative through-line, tracing the roots of this issue up the chain of government command in Thailand and through the extremely murky fish supply chain back to supermarkets in the U.S. and Europe. 

Our mission is to tell a captivating tale, full of incredible, real-time events and unforgettable characters that can catalyze change by shifting how we look at the fish on our plates. We believe a character-driven, widely accessible documentary film that lights up the American consciousness about fish could be ‘The Inconvenient Truth’ or ‘Food Inc.’ for the ocean. It would provide oceans advocates with a much-needed human face, add fire to the movement against forced labor and link environmental collapse with collateral economic damage.

 

 

There is no greater force on Earth than the promise of freedom.

 

The Gulf of Thailand, once teeming with life, is now barren.  Decades ago, Thai boats plied rich waters and came home full after a few days or weeks. Now captains are out for years, chasing fish as far away as Ethiopia.   

As Thailand’s prosperity increases, fishermen are finding more family-friendly work and the enormous Thai fishing fleet—the second-biggest supplier of fish to the United States—is short an estimated 60,000 men per year.  

Human trafficking gangs have stepped into the gap, luring men out of villages in Cambodia and Myanmar [Burma] with false promises of well paying jobs in prosperous Thailand.  Instead, they sell the men to captains for a few hundred dollars and the captives are held at sea, no land in sight, for years on end. Boats make perfect prisons. 

Meanwhile, families at home wait for their men to return--elders plow fields, wives hold funerals after years of absence.  Entire villages in Cambodia and Myanmar are eerily without men.   

This flow of slaves from northern Asian nations to southern ones through the Thai fleet is estimated in the hundreds of thousands, though it has likely crossed the million man mark. It’s such a staggering problem that the U.S. Ambassador in charge of investigating global human trafficking, Luis C DeBaca, says the slave trade onto Thai boats knocks the entire economy of Southeast Asia off kilter. And, because Thailand is the second biggest supplier of fish to the United States, he believes our reliance on slave fish threatens American food security.