Although the new year commenced with a glimmer of hope for seafarers – as organisations pushed for seafarers to be designated as keyworkers, alongside the welcome news that some countries would be prioritising seafarers for the COVID-19 vaccine, abandonment continues to be a problem for the industry.
While the issue of seafarer abandonment is well known within the shipping sphere, It gained some high-profile coverage this past February when various mainstream publications and broadcasters shone a light on the issue of the MT Iba. A gruelling case which saw five seafarers stuck at sea for four years, without pay and food due to the owner going bankrupt.
However, it was when the tanker became beached opposite a Dubai tourist hotspot, the warm golden sands and inviting azure waters of Umm Al Quwain – that the struggle of seafarers in relation to abandonment was explicitly highlighted to the general public.
The Mission’s regional director for the Middle East & South Asia region, Andy Bowerman, who was proud to have played a vital role in negotiating the long overdue salary of the seafarers, commented: “We were hoping that once they got beached, this would be resolved more quickly…If there was a strong maritime legislation in place this ship would be arrested and put out to auction immediately.”
Although the men of the MT Iba were gradually repatriated and their losses were recouped against the auction of the vessel, this wasn’t the last time we would hear about the issue.
Just recently, amidst the news of the Suez Canal blockage there was news of another seafarer, Syrian national Mohamed Aisha, who has been living on an abandoned cargo ship the MV Aman for four long years, completely alone.
We, at The Mission to Seafarers continue to deal with similar issues which are of course not going to be solved overnight.
In the Kenyan port of Mombasa, the MV Jinan, a vessel which has been abandoned since October 2019 with 10 crew members, continues to receive fervent support from the port chaplain Reverend Moses Muli and his team.
Speaking on the case, Reverend Muli, said: “We have continued to care for seafarers onboard MV Jinan supporting them with food stuff, water, fuel and cooking gas.”
“We thought the matter was going to be settled soon after the court ruled in their favour, but actually the process of selling the ship is taking longer that we had anticipated. This has been the most challenging experience I have ever encountered since I joined the mission.”
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