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HRAS: “Distressing conditions” for abandoned Indian crew in Sri Lanka

Image Credits: Safety4sea

Repost: The six remaining Indian crew onboard the Indian flagged vessel the MV Sai Arambh have been reportedly abandoned since 18 October 2019 in the Port of Colombo, totalling over 32 months with limited support, says HRAS.

The organization notes that the conditions have resulted in deteriorating crew health, safety, and welfare conditions onboard, including limited access to fresh food and potable water.

Tragically, the cook drowned on 29 March 2022 when he fell into the sea as he was attempting to negotiate the ship’s badly damaged gangway to go ashore

Alerted to Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) by the UK-based NGO, Justice Upheld, the unseaworthy general cargo vessel remains alongside with running repairs for below waterline leaks being undertaken, no PPE, holes in deck plates, exterior stairwells and gangways in appalling condition, poor living, cooking, and sanitary conditions.

The crew arrested the vessel with a warrant being issued by the Sri Lankan High Court on 30 January 2020 with then claimed damages for outstanding wages of then R 7,182, 766.90 (USD$ 90,587.98) and which continue to accrue.

The vessel is listed on the ILO database No. 00553 as reported via the ITF on 30 November 2021 with a stated court date was 3 December 2021 following a series of postponements due to the pandemic and noting the state of current unrest in the country. The last reported payment pending on the ILO database was for USD$ 530,000.

Personal loans to repatriate 

Nine crew were reported repatriated in April 2021, having been forced to take out loans to return home to India, leaving the Master and five crew waiting on legal relief and outstanding wages owed since December 2019.

HRAS understands that the crew were compelled into the position of paying 50% of their repatriation costs, with the Indian High Commission paying the other 50% per seafarer

Crew position 

Remaining crew onboard have variously stated to HRAS that “the authorities are very aware of our case and the problems we have, but the ship is 28 years old and is in very bad condition with bad living conditions. Floor plates are so corroded that there are holes through the deck, and we have holes in the galley which leak, the skylight to the engine room is leaking water, and the hold catches are heavily corroded.” 

HRAS has also spoken to the co-owner, Captain Prafula Ranjan, who disputes the position put forward by the crew. He highlights that he is informed that the matter is in the court’s hands, so he is unable to make any decision.

He specifically told HRAS:

The crew arrested the vessel, and we have repeatedly requested that they leave the vessel so it can be sold. The crew have neglected the ship, they do not clean their accommodation, it is filthy. When I was in Colombo in May (2022), I personally supplied provisions myself and went to the ship. I have the receipts which I have submitted to the court. Repairs have been carried out on the ship’s hull to all leaks below the waterline with temporary repairs, and all leaks have been found to be holding

However, the Master strongly refuted the owner’s position, noting that:

I don’t accept any of the allegations. The conditions onboard this 28-year-old ship are very bad. We look after the accommodation. No crew have beaten anybody. He is totally speaking lies


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