Cape Town - On April 27 last year the E Whale arrived in Table Bay.
Now, more than a year later, the ship is still at anchor off Cape Town and 17 crewmen continue to live aboard the hulking vessel, unable to leave.
The ship has been arrested and has remained anchored in Table Bay because of several outstanding debts the ship’s owners have neglected to pay on the E Whale’s sister ship, the A Whale.
The E Whale was arrested as soon as it docked in Cape Town and has since been arrested by three other creditors.
The crew members must keep the ship functioning until financial matters with the vessel’s owners, Today Makes Tomorrow International Shipping, are sorted out.
Only 3km from shore, the crew are trapped with little to distract them for up to four months at a time.
“We are trapped in jail here,” said Joseph Valiyaveethil, a 39-year-old electrical engineer.
When the Cape Times visited the ship, crew members were excited to have newcomers on board, although some remained despondent about their continued isolation.
Visitors can get aboard the vessel by climbing into a small netted basket, and being lifted by a crane 33m into the air on to the ship’s deck.
The only other way to enter or exit the 172 146 ton ship is by helicopter.
Some of the crew said they were overcome with worry over their families’ wellbeing.