16 sailors stranded off UAE over a year
Dubai - Sailors seek help to return home, say they have not been paid salaries for four months
Fifteen Indian sailors and one Pakistani seafarer were stranded onboard a tanker 15 miles off the UAE due to a legal dispute involving the ship owners.
The sailors, who were stranded onboard MT Zoya1 for over a year, have also not been paid salaries for four months. The ECB International LLC owns the ship, and the ship flies with a Panamanian flag.
The sailors' contracts are long overdue for sign-off, and their passports and seafarer books have been in the possession of the UAE coastal authorities since October 1, 2017, following the legal dispute.
The sailors' informed Khaleej Times that they had sent several reminders to the company management and ship owners. Meanwhile, Aurum Ship Management, the local managers of the Panama flag vessel, has not given the sailors confirmation as to when they would provide salaries.
Captain Anand from the Aurum Ship Management, said: "The basic problem is with the ship owners. They have been unresponsive to our calls and emails. We've requested them to pay the crew salaries and the port fees as soon as possible."
Captain Anand clarified that the sailors are provided with regular food, water and other necessary supplies. "But the men are frustrated since they've not been paid and the sign-off is not being completed," he said.
Indian diplomatic missions are currently working with local authorities to help expedite the repatriation and payment of the sailors. "We have been in touch with the crew members, and we have intimated the local authorities (Federal Transport Authority) as well," said Sumathi Vasudev, labour and consular affairs at the Indian Consulate in Dubai.
She added: "The sailors were promised sign-off on April 10, but nothing has happened so far. The ship owners ECB International have been unresponsive to our calls as well."
Two crewmen try
to commit suicide
Meanwhile, the sailors are in a desperate situation and are facing severe physical, mental and financial stress. Two crew members allegedly attempted suicide onboard the vessel, according to some of the ship captain.
The sailors say that they haven't committed any mistakes or violated any laws.
Indian national chief officer of Zoya-1 Okram Bernal Singh, said: "We feel like we are in a jail. I have been on-board this tanker for 11 months. The contract I signed with the company is only for four and a half months. I have a family and kids who I haven't seen in so long."
Another Indian seaman Sukhmitpal Singh, who allegedly attempted suicide, said: "I have already completed my service contract, and I've been onboard for 13 months. I've been asking the owners to release me since October 2017, as my mother is seriously ill. I am the sole caretaker of my family and thinking about my mother's health; I even tried to take my life once."
Second engineer, Pakistani national Syed Nawab Ali Shah, said: "I am suffering here on board without salary and sign off for four months. My family's financial condition is getting worse. I urge the management to pay pending wages and assure my safe return home."
Deck fitter Govind Prajapati said: "My mother is a heart patient and my wife is alone to look after her. I have completed 13 months on-board. I requested the company to sign off and release of documents many times; I am in a financial crisis and unable to bear the medical expenses of my mother. We are treated like animals that are left helpless here in water many miles away from home."
The Indian consulate has helped repatriate approximately 250 Indian national sailors since May 2017.