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Freedom at midnight for 16 Indian seafarers in UAE

Dhanusha Gokulan/Dubai
Filed on August 14, 2018 | Last updated on August 14, 2018 at 10.57 pm
Crew members of vessel Maharshi Vamadeva before they headed for India on Tuesday night.
Crew members of vessel Maharshi Vamadeva before they headed for India on Tuesday night.

The current crew signed-in on February 14 this year.

Finally, a group of Indian seafarers, who were living in deplorable conditions on board a gas tanker a few miles off the coast of Fujairah for six months, are going home. 

The 16 seafarers are going to taste freedom as their predicament ends on the occasion of 72nd Independence Day celebrations for Indians across the world.

The exhausted, yet relieved seafarers will depart from the UAE to India when the clock strikes on Wednesday, August 15 at 12am, the exact time India declared its independence from Britain in 1947.

The disputed vessel, Maharshi Vamadeva, was reportedly detained by the Fujairah Port authorities over a year ago for alleged non-payment of dues by ship owner Varun Global, a company under liquidation due to bankruptcy.

The decision to repatriate the men came after repeated efforts by the Consulate-General of India in Dubai, the UAE Federal Transport Authority, Fujairah port authorities and the ship's local management.

Sumathi Vasudev, acting Consul-General of India, said: "The tickets are booked, and the men are free to return home. We thank the local authorities for allowing us to evacuate the crew." The tickets for the men were paid for by the consulate, and they will head back on an Air India flight.

However, vessel in-charge Captain Krishna Kumar said the men are yet to be paid their salaries. They hope that their pending dues would be settled in the months to come. The current crew signed-in on February 14 this year.

He said: "I understand Fujairah port authorities have seized the ship on behalf of Dubai Dry Docks. Despite the non-payment of dues, this is a big day of freedom for all of us. We are relieved, and it feels like a bird has come out of its cage."

The men would like to enjoy an extended vacation before getting back to work. Earlier this month (August 7), ship's second officer, Vishwa Gupta and another electrical officer were repatriated owing to poor health.

Manohar Bharadan of the vessel's shipping agent Gulf Navigation has been providing them with food whenever they can.

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