Thailand is one of the world’s biggest seafood suppliers, but overfishing is emptying the once-abundant Thai seas. Ships need to head out farther from shore to make their quota, sometimes sailing for years in a row. As a result, people are less and less interested in pursuing fishing professions, so the Thai seafood industry is facing a huge shortage of fishermen. Human traffickers see an opportunity and kidnap people from the surrounding countries. Young boys, sometimes barely in their teens, are scooped up from Cambodia and Myanmar and sold to fishing companies. These kidnap victims are forced to work on ships under harsh conditions for years. Anyone who refuses gets beaten, locked up or even murdered.

The film follows Patima, who runs an organization from Bangkok that offers assistance to former slaves. Accompanied by a group that includes Tun Lin, who was kidnapped at age 14 and forced to work on a fishing boat for eleven years, Patima undertakes an expedition to Indonesia. There she hopes to find a number of former slaves who are hiding on some islands near the coast, in order to take them home and reunite them with their families.

Patima Tungpuchayakul was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.

Ghost Fleet was screened at Movies that Matter Festival 2019 (22-30 March, The Hague). During the festival, the documentary won two prizes: the BNNVARA audience award and the Activist Documentary Award for the best documentary from the Activist competition.

Ghost Fleet (2019) | Official Trailer