10 sailors stranded off UAE, abandoned by employer
The crew members said their salaries had not been paid for over a year.- Picture retrieved from @cgidubai/twitter
Dubai - The crew has been surviving on board with dwindling supplies of fresh water, food, and bunker supplies since July 2018.
A total of 10 seafarers on board cargo vessel MV Azraqmoiah, located several miles off the Ajman Port (six nautical miles off the coast of Sharjah) are reportedly living in deplorable conditions.
The crew has been surviving on board with dwindling supplies of fresh water, food, and bunker supplies since July 2018, and in August this year, supplies stopped coming, so they reached out to the Consulate General of India (CGI) in Dubai for help.
The cargo vessel is owned by the Dubai-based Elite Way Marine Services Est, and it flies a UAE flag.
Captain Ayyappan Swaminathan of MV Azraqmoiah said: "We got regular supplies till July this year, however, since August, there have been minimal provisions, and we go into blackout every morning to conserve petroleum."
After being informed of the sailors' condition, the Indian consulate in Dubai provided supplies to the stranded crew members earlier last week.
Sumathi Vasudev, labour attaché at the CGI, said emergency food, fresh water, and other bunker supplies were provided to the crew members. She said, "They reached out to the consulate for provisions on August 26 .We supplied the food items to the crew, and we are in touch with the local authorities over the repayment and repatriation of the sailors."
According to a circular issued by the UAE's Federal Transport Authorities (FTA), due to recurring cases of seafarer abandonment, aboard ships belonging to Eliteway Marine Services LLC, all commercial activities of the company's vessels were banned from operating in UAE ports and waters as of June 6 this year. Khaleej Times has procured a verified copy of this circular.
The crew members said their salaries had not been paid for over a year, even though they have been requesting the sign-off and release of dues since January 2018. Furthermore, the crew said that the UAE coast guard authorities had seized the vessel and their documents.
Swaminathan said: "I joined the vessel at the Hamariya Port on February 12, 2017. The vessel was berthed in Hamariya Port for maintenance. I've been on board for 21 months, and I've not been paid my salary for 14 months."
Crew members said the owners' mismanagement of vessel operations gave rise to these issues. "The management has not paid its dues to a bunker supply company that was bunkering for Elite Way ships. The bunkering company took legal action against our company management, which led to the FTA's involvement. The FTA and the CGI have been very supportive of our cause," he added.
Bunkering is the storage of petroleum products in tanks and the practice and business of refuelling ships, Swaminathan explained.
Except for the two crew members, the sailors are mainly from India. "Two of the crew members are from other countries - chief officer Ibrahim Adam Lazim is from Sudan, and engineer Lawrence Otto Tarimo is from Tanzania. The rest are from India."
Captain Swaminathan said: "Our cook, Rajib Ali, has been working on board the vessel for 31 months. Recently, his father passed away, and we spoke to the company to send him back to India so he can attend his father's funeral. The company didn't do anything. Ali was not able to attend his dad's funeral in the end."
Every morning, the vessel goes into a blackout. "At night, we run the generator for eight hours to avoid other ships from colliding with us. During the day, we turn it on for three hours for cooking purposes," said Swaminathan.
"We feel very unsafe on board. If anything happens to us, who will be held responsible? They are not treating us like fellow humans, we all are fighting for our basic rights. Not only are we are struggling on board, our families back home are struggling without our salaries."
Khaleej Times tried to reach out to Eliteway Marine Services for comment several times; however, calls to concerned parties went unanswered.