Confinement onboard finally stopped after Mission to Seafarers charity’s intervention
The tanker owner’s financial troubles resulted in non-payment of wages for at least three years. All five crew members were hence abandoned onboard the 5,000-tonne MT Iba, owned by Alco Shipping. A new buyer, Shark Power Marine Services handed two cheques amounting to $165,000 (£119,000) in unpaid wages to the seafarers. Negotiated by Mission to Seafarers charity, the amount was between 65 and 70 per cent of the wages owed.
Good news after a four-year wait
The five-man crew had a brief and emotional trip to dry land to meet representatives of Alco Shipping on the beach at Umm Al Quwain. Work is under way to assess the damage to the oil tanker when both anchors broke and the vessel drifted from the busy port.
Win and Riasat Ali, 52-year-old Pakistani second engineers have been onboard since July 2017. Monchand Sheikh, 26, a cook from India, joined in late 2018, Vinay Kumar, 31, another second engineer, and Nirmal Singh-Bora, 22, both from India, joined in late 2019. Myanmese chief engineer, Nay Win, said: “The buyer has promised us we will get home and I hope I will get home after 5 March. My family is really happy.”
Andy Bowerman, Mission to Seafarers’ regional director in the Middle East and South Asia, said: “Hopefully, all being well, they will be at the port of Dubai and ready to go home. The crew came off and swam to the shore. Nay Win was in tears. He was off the boat; there was a cheque in my hands. But unfortunately they could not just step down and go home.”
The seafarers have agreed to stay on to do essential work on the ship before it is towed to Dubai, where they will wait 15 days for legal work on the sale of the vessel to be completed. They will then be paid the balance of the money owed, and repatriated.
Expediting the seafarers’ returns
A spokesperson for the UAE Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure said the authorities were helping the seafarers renew passports via their embassies, so they could be quickly repatriated. The crew will require a PCR Covid-19 test, and will be allowed to fly if the test result is negative. Otherwise, quarantine arrangements will be made.
According to a database run by the International Maritime Organisation, the spokesperson commented that UAE is a busy maritime hub with 20 active ports; more traffic led to more cases of crew abandonment. New legislation that would allow the port to arrest an abandoned ship and auction it without the involvement of the courts is yet to be in place.
Mohamed Arrachedi, International Transport Workers’ Federation’s Arab World and Iran Network coordinator said the long-running case of the Iba was a “symptom that something very wrong exists and has to change. “The seafarers are the workforce that keeps ships at sea. Their rights, well being, wages, conditions and welfare must be at the centre of priorities,” he stressed.