Last of 40 sailors abandoned off UAE coast to fly home soon
Dubai - Their repatriation shall end one of the most horrible and longest sagas involving abandoned seafarers in the UAE.
Four abandoned sailors who were trapped in the sea for more than 34 months have come ashore and are waiting to fly home.
Their repatriation shall end one of the most horrible and longest sagas involving abandoned seafarers in the UAE, who were forced to survive on sea without salaries and provisions.
Khaleej Times had earlier reported the plight of around 40 sailors stranded on board shipping vessels that were abandoned off the UAE coast by their company Elite Way Marine Services, which went bankrupt.
Following negotiations by the Federal Transport Authority, the Indian Embassy and the charity Mission to Seafarers, the sailors were repatriated in different batches, after the company agreed to pay part of their pending salaries.
Years of 'nightmare'
And, finally, almost three years of nightmare was over for engineer Vikash Mishra, 39; chief engineer Arso Lobo, 49; and two other Eritrean seafarers on August 8, when a boat came to relieve them from the shipping vessel Tamim Aldar.
"When it happened, it was almost unbelievable," Mishra, from Varanasi in North India, told Khaleej Times.
The crew of Tamim Aldar had lived in horrific conditions without food, clean drinking water and air conditioning since 2017.
Last month, when they ran out of provisions, they made a desperate attempt to come ashore on a lifeboat.
"But the coast guard intercepted us and ordered us to return," said Mishra. Maritime law does not allow sailors to abandon a ship in the sea.
All four men are currently staying in a boat jetty in Dubai, awaiting the final settlement with their company. "The company has agreed to pay 70 per cent of our pending dues.
Negotiations are still under way, and we are hoping to fly home within a week or so," said Mishra, who claims that the company owes him more than $70,000 (Dh256,900) in unpaid salaries.
"It was tough to survive. But it was tougher for my family who depends on my income," he said. Mishra is a married man, with two children aged three and nine.
"My father is a farmer. Without my salary, he had to sell part of his land to fund his treatment and to send my kids to school."
'Worst days are over'
The merchant navy engineer said his younger daughter Tanya was just nine months old when he joined the ship in October 2016. "Now, she has turned three. I am not even sure if she will recognise me."
He said his wife Vinitha and the kids are counting the days for his return.
Lobo, from Tamil Nadu, said he is glad the worst days are over.
"I cannot wait to go back home and see my family. I cannot even imagine what they had gone through without me being able to support them," said Lobo who is married and has a 14-year-old son.
He said his family has been surviving on help from relatives.
"Life on the sea was not easy. We were sleeping on the ship's deck because there was no electricity. I have rashes and skin allergies. But I am looking forward to a new beginning."