Sailors living in squalor for 3 months; owner promises to resolve issue within 10 days.
Twelve stranded Indian sailors have been living without pay and on limited medical, food and water supplies for three months aboard a vessel berthed at the Ajman freezone.
Most of the stranded crew of Happy Success said they have not been paid their salaries for over five months and in some cases six. Crew members also alleged that the supply of diesel, food and drinking water has been irregular.
The vessel's owner and director, Rohan Hede - of Hede Ferromina's Pvt Ltd based out of Goa, India - when contacted over the phone said the company is doing everything in their power to clear the paperwork of the employees and send them back to India.
The ship's local caretaker Cyrus Shipping Services LLC, however, said there is an ongoing standoff between the owner and its crew members, which is why they haven't been paid for six months.
According to the stranded men, the owner has been unreachable. Safaraj Khan, one of the crew said: "We have limited medical supplies in the ship. Due to the heat and lack of proper air conditioning, the men have suffered deep skin rashes. The condition onboard is very bad, people are losing their mind."
The stranded crew members include the captain of the ship, Niranjan Das Nripendra, second officer Sarfaraj Khan, chief engineer Ananta Kumar Nandi and nine other crew members.
The men have no way to communicate with the outside world and cannot afford money for telephone calls. The crew cannot exit the port premises, either.
"We have been using the Sat-C, a satellite communication device to send messages. We have send hundreds of messages to the owner, the Indian mission in the UAE, and to so many other people for help. No one has looked into our matter for months," said Nandi. Some crew members are as young as 21 and face financial problems back home.
The men are being given food, water, diesel, and Dh1,000 in total every week for supplies by the company. However, due to lack of diesel, the ship faced a blackout for one day in July.
"We always need to call and pester them (the company) for supplies. They wait until the last drop of diesel drains out and after we raise a hue and cry they come and drop off eight to 10 tonnes of diesel," said Sarfaraj.
The Indian Consulate in Dubai is aware of the crew's condition and has promised to look into the problem at the earliest. "The consulate has already begun work on the case and we are pressurising the officials concerned to sort matters out as soon as possible," an official told Khaleej Times.
The ship left the port of Mumbai on February 11 and reached the UAE waters on February 26. The ship was first taken to Port Khalid in Sharjah, where it was anchored for five days. "The ship then met with an accident in Sharjah ... and that is where the problem started," said Sarfaraj.
Ali Khamooshi, an employee of Canada Shipping LLC, local representative of Hede Ferromina, said: "The ship was supposed to leave for Russia, but due to delay in the paper processing in Mumbai and the accident in Sharjah, the ship never set sail."
Since the ship has over-stayed in the port for over 21 days, special permissions from the Transport Authority and coast guard needs to be acquired. "Only after this and payment of pending dues, will the crew members' fees be cleared," said Ali Akbar, an employee of Hede Ferromina who is now in the UAE due to the issue. PRO of Cyrus Shipping, Mohammed Qaiser, said the company has not taken care of its crew members and the men are in a very bad condition, especially in the last four to five months.
He said: "The crew has not been paid for five to six months. The company has not paid the port and agency dues, either. There is a total outstanding of Dh45,000 of port and agency dues. The company has only cleared Dh17,000, which is payment for the month of June."
The company, however, claims that salaries for only three months for senior staff and one to two months for junior staff members were pending.
The company also said that the crew members were offered jobs which they turned down.
It claims to have cleared all outstanding dues to Cyrus Shipping as of Tuesday, September 1. Officials at Cyrus Shipping, however have not confirmed this.
Shore pass rules for seafarersSeamen are not issued visas for all countries. As per the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), all seafarers must have a Continuous Dischrage Certificate (CDC) issued by their home country. The CDC resembles a passport, but only for seafarers, and their travel activity is recorded in the CDC.
Usually ports issue a shore pass for seafarers, free of cost, which gives them the freedom to exit the port for a few hours in a day. In the UAE, the shore pass is issued by the Immigration Authority.
Seafarers use them to leave their ship and the port that the ship is berthed in to go for shopping, haircuts, medical services, and other services not available in the port.
In the UAE a shore pass is issued at Dh150 per day. But companies do not undertake the cost of issuing the shore pass and seamen do not spend money on acquiring it either.
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