The stranded Indian sailors on the Panama-registered vessel anchored off the Sharjah coast for the past eight months. - Supplied photo
Sharjah - They are stuck with limited food, water and no pay for 8 months.
Seventeen Indian sailors and their captain have been stranded on a Panama-registered vessel anchored off the Sharjah coastline for the past eight months with limited food and water, no pay, and in grim conditions, according to a letter of complaint to the Dubai Maritime City Authority.
Since arriving in the waters of the UAE on January 18, the letter says, the crew of the M/V Aegean Princess has been forced to ration their provisions and eat only steamed rice. Lacking even fresh water, crew members had to go up to 13 days at a time without a proper shower and clean themselves with sea water. Signed by Tin Ko Ko, the ship's captain who is from Myanmar, the letter stressed that the health of the crew was deteriorating.
The letter identifies Brajendra Kumar Chakravarty of Dubai-based Vihaan Trading as the vessel's owner and complains that he has been making false promises to alleviate the plight of the crew. Two calls and an email from Khaleej Times to Chakravarthy for comments went unanswered.
This is the second incident of crew members left stranded on a vessel this month. Early in September, 12 Indian sailors of the vessel Happy Success reported similar problems.
First Officer Hemadri Upadhyay of the Aegean Princess told Khaleej Times that provisions were sporadic and "even when supplied, not of sufficient quantity. They last only three to five days."
"When the water is not supplied on time, we cannot take shower for days. This keeps happening," he added. "Yesterday some provisions were supplied so we got fresh water, but before that we were drinking water from the tank. We were boiling it and drinking it. It's unhygienic but we cannot do anything. That's the only source of water we have at times."
According to the captain's letter, most crew members have not been able to speak to their family because they have not been provided phone cards. The sailors on the overcrowded vessel - not equipped with a centralised air conditioning system - have been forced to share sleeping space on the bridge, mess room and captain's cabin. "It is not a very good situation on board," Upadhyay said. "On the first of this month we sent a distress alert to ships nearby that we did not have drinking water and anything to eat ... the coastguard is well aware of that ... they supplied us with bread and a little drinking water. But they won't come and help us every time, because it's not their duty. It's the owner who has to take responsibility."
"We informed them well in advance, but they said 'tomorrow'...but tomorrow never comes,' he added. Morale among the crew is low. "We have to lie to our families. Every day (they) are calling to ask when we'll come back, and we do not have an answer," he said. "It's very depressing out here."
To make matters worse, crew members say they have not received their salaries since the time they signed onto the ship. A few, however, have received an occasional advance. "We've not been getting our salaries," Upadhyay said. "Everybody has completed the project, and our families back home are suffering without the money. It's already been due." Documents provided to Khaleej Times indicate that of the 18 men on board, nine have already completed their contracts and wish to sign off, while the remaining nine have been on board for over two months and have received nothing.
"Why are these people keeping us on board? It is better for them to sign us off," he said. "Whenever we call they say they are trying, trying, trying, but there is a limit. This is the fault of the ship's ownership."
For the past three months, the management of the ship's supplies has been the responsibility of Karim Harbi, who has been contracted by the ship's owners.
"Everything will be good," he said. "They will sail after Eid, Sunday or Monday to Dammam (Saudi Arabia) and then Basra." "Maximum Monday they will be signed off," Karim added. "Yesterday we sent them provisions. I had arranged it for before yesterday, but there was bad weather, so it is not in my hands. I sent them about 20 boxes of drinking water. For each one, one box."