The ITF today congratulated the Danish authorities for acting to avert a potential miscarriage of justice against three seafarers.
The men – innocent victims of a ship owner who took their passports and abandoned them and their ship – were close to being deported and given criminal records as illegal entrants to Denmark. This would have seriously jeopardised their chances of finding work again. They have today learned that all such charges have been dropped and they are to be assisted to return home. They are, according to the ITF, likely to also receive the four months’ worth of wages owed to them once the ship on which they were serving is sold.
The three were promised work on the Cormorant in August 2009. The vessel’s German captain/owner took away their passports and other personal belongings and prevented them leaving it. They and the ship were abandoned in Frederiksvaerk, Denmark, in December of last year.
ITF Seafarers’ Section Secretary Jon Whitlow commented : “We have been inches away from another case of the unfair criminalisation of seafarers. I am glad to report that the Danish authorities have seen the wisdom of an urgent review of what was planned, and have moved quickly to prevent that injustice from happening.”
Following their abandonment with no wages, food or power the three men, two Ghanaians and a Russian, have until now been dependent on local charities and ITF Inspector Morten Bach for help. Morten Bach stated : “To all intents and purposes these men were held as virtual prisoners on the ship. Almost unbelievably they were then charged with having been in Denmark illegally, even though the captain had taken away their passports to stop them escaping from the ship. Had the authorities here not relented, they would have been hit with at least a year’s ban from passing through Danish territory, giving them an EU-wide criminal record. This was utterly unacceptable and that message has been driven home to the Danish authorities, who, I’m glad to say, have now acted to take that message on board.”
According to the ITF the Cormorant case was the latest example of the unfair criminalisation of seafarers. Previous cases such as the Hebei Two have been roundly condemned by the whole body of shipping organisations.
Guy Morel, Secretary General of Intermanager, commented : “Letting the crew return home with no blemish on their work record was the only fair and just option.”
Jon Whitlow added : “We would also like to commend the Danish Seafarers’ Welfare Council (Handelsflaaedens Velfaerdsraad) for stepping in and paying the repatriation costs.”
Background : The Russian chief officer and the two Ghanaian seafarers (who signed on as ordinary seamen) joined the ship in August 2009. They have not been paid wages since September 2009. The ship arrived in Frederiksvaerk on November 22nd 2009. The captain/owner, Klaus Herman Juls, left the vessel on December 15th 2009 and travelled to his home in Rostock, Germany to talk with a German bank about raising funds to register the ship with St Vincent & Grenadines, having been deregistered by its previous flag, the Cook Islands. On January 19th 2010 the 1965-built, DWT 743 vessel was registered in St Vincent & Grenadines.
The crew contacted ITF inspector Morten Bach on January 4th 2010, when he spoke to the owner for the first and last time. Juls left the vessel with little food, water or fuel. He promised to come back the following week and pay the crew. Since then he has refused to take any calls from the ITF or the crew, who have been receiving food aid from the Danish Seafarers’ Welfare Council and other charities.