BENGALURU: A 43-year seafarer from Tamil Nadu, employed in the kitchen on board MV Astoria, a ship docked at the Port of Tilbury in the United Kingdom for the past 100 days, died after he suffered a cardiac arrest in the early hours of Wednesday. The death took place on Vasco Da Gama, another stranded ship on which the Astoria crew had been shifted on Tuesday night.
Crew members said that Balajee Krishnakumar was in a depressed state, and desperate to be with his family at Tambaram in Chennai. The 168 crew members have been stranded in Essex since March 9 and have repeatedly requested that they be repatriated to India. TNIE had highlighted their plight in its edition dated June 3. Cooks, bartenders and security staff from Goa, Kerala, Maharashtra, New Delhi and Tamil Nadu are among those on the ship.
The death of a co-worker has compounded the agony of the seafarers, who have not been allowed to step outside due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The crew was shifted after the contract for Astoria expired, and it headed to Portugal. A staffer said that Balajee, a father of two young kids, was employed as ‘First Cook’. “He signed his 7-month contract in August last year and it expired in March.
But none of us could go home. He was in good physical shape and this is a shock to all of us,” he said. Balajee was a quiet person and kept to himself, another staffer said. Staffers told TNIE, on condition of anonymity, that Balajee had been upset and keen to be with his family. “It’s not just him who is depressed, many of us are too, due to this prolonged confinement,” said one member. One source said it could be a case of suicide due to depression. However, this could not be confirmed with the ship authorities. The chances of death due to Covid-19 was ruled out as the crew is tested regularly, said a seaman.