A 23-member crew -- 21 of them Indians, including one Keralite and two from Lakshadweep -- of the Liberian-flagged motor tanker ‘A Whale’, has been stranded at the Egyptian port of Suez for the past five months without fuel, proper food, communication system or wages.
Speaking to Express from Egypt, the vessel’s Bangladeshi master Khan Jubair said seven crew members, including him, have decided to leave the vessel though they have not received wages for the last couple of months. “Seven crew members -- me, five Indians and one from Pakistan -- have decided to leave the vessel without waiting for wages. We waited for five months, but got no response from the authorities. Others too want to go back, but can’t afford to do so without receiving their wages,” he said.
According to the crew of the vessel managed by Nos Ship Management in Singapore, no Indian officials or the firms in Mumbai and Kochi which recruited them, have come forward to help them. The plight came to light when they sent a couple of emails to the Sailors Helpline Chennai describing the situation.
“From past four months, the company has not paid us even a single penny. On many occasions, we asked the management to pay our wages but in vain. All we got to hear from the management was that the company was going through a bad phase. Many of us have already completed our contracts but are not being repatriated. Now, without money, it has become very difficult for us to run our homes. The total wages due to us would be nearly $3,00,000. We are left with only 15 days’ fuel and 20-25 days’ provisions to run this ship. We are afraid that our company is not going to provide us with fuel and food,” reads an email sent on May 7.
Another communication on June 21 read: “We have run out of bunker(fuel), our food is rotting, the company has stopped our communication system and we are not paid for the last six months. The crew has lost its patience resulting in physical fights among each other. No organisation has come forward to help us out. We are still at the anchorage at Suez.”
The Sailors Helpline brought the issue to the attention of the Director General of Shipping. “Though we have informed the DG Shipping, which is the nodal agency for shipping-related issues, no action was taken against the recruitment firms,” said Manoj Joy of Sailors Helpline. “As soon as we came to know about the issue, we contacted the Head Quarters in Singapore. They said the pending wages will be settled before June 30,” said the Kochi office of Nos Ship Management officials.
The issue has brought the recruitment firms in India under scanner.