Officers and crew aboard a Marshal Island-flagged crude oil tanker have been stranded in the waters of Dubai since January 28.The 28 members aboard the MT Samho Crown, owned by a Korean company and with a management office in Dubai, have not received their salaries for the past two months and have been living on rationed food and without medical aid.
“As we are running out of hope day by day, we are stranded in a helpless situation with no one to rescue us. We are seeing you as the last ray of hope as the vessel is still stationed in the territorial waters of Dubai. Can you please help us ?” the crew said in an SOS call to Khaleej Times.
Those stranded include 21 Indians, four Koreans including the captain and the chief engineer, and one citizen each from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Georgia. “Some of the crew members have been on board for nearly nine months. About 10 have been overdue to sign off from the ship as their contracts have already expired,” one of them said. Crew members are generally on an eight-month contract and officers on a four-month term.
The crew said they repeatedly tried to convince their management to pay them their salaries and clear dues. “But all we have received from their side are false promissory letters again and again.”
“In March, we were starving of food, and the ration supplement was also meager. We didn’t have any fresh vegetables and dairy products for a month. The crew had to merely survive on rice and pulses. All medicines have expired. We had to fight a lot even for provisions. We had to call ITF and authorities at Dubai Drydocks and Dubai Port for food supply,” an officer said.
ITF, the International Transport Workers’ Federation based in London, has also been pressurising the owners to clear the dues.
The captain who is in his 70s was about to collapse on Thursday due to fatigue, according to one of the crew. Though under frustration and despair, other officers and crew decided to give him a helping hand and maintain the safety of the vessel, the trading license of which has also expired.
“We can’t compromise on the safety of the vessel and we have been trying our best to convince the owners that we were keeping a low profile only to protect their reputation. We can’t bear this anymore as many of us are the sole breadwinners of our families. The ship cannot trade and we cannot enter any land without the management’s services for immigration clearance and other local procedures,” the officer said.
A spokesperson for International Tanker Management, the management company in Dubai responsible for recruitment and salaries of the crew, said they were unable to pay the dues as they had not received the funds from the owners, Samho Shipping Company Ltd in Seoul.
“It’s a disheartening situation. We can pay the dues once we receive funds from them, which they have promised to do by April 15. They couldn’t send the money as their bank accounts have been frozen. I believe they had taken some loans for paying a hefty ransom for releasing one of their ships from pirates. We are also in touch with ITF for solving this,” he said.