ITF Seafarers’ Trust worker Darren Procter says he was horrified by the conditions fishermen faced on board a scallop trawler searched at Camber Dock last Thursday.
The vessel moored after one of its seafarers allegedly sustained a head injury.
But police boarded the boat after receiving a call for help from one of nine foreign workers on board.
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Mr Procter, 40, who is ITF’s inspector for the south coast, boarded the trawler alongside officers.
Describing what he saw, he said: ‘I was horrified. All I can say is these were broken men.
‘They were being made to work 18 hours a day with just four hours to rest between shifts.
‘And for all that, they were being paid £800 a month.’
Following the search, the nine men, aged between 25 and 57, were removed to safety by the National Crime Agency.
Mr Procter said: ‘The seafarers told us the men running the boat had made reference to the colour of their skin and even called them slaves.
‘They were experienced and dedicated fishermen, but it was clear they had never been worked like this.
‘Before they were taken away officers said they have never seen people look so relieved to be in the back of a police van.’
n Two men – a 30-year-old from Annan in Scotland and a 33-year-old from Southport in Merseyside – were arrested on suspicion of modern slavery offences.
They are being questioned by police.