Starving sailors desperate after six months held by UAE

Starving sailors desperate for freedom, after six months of hell in UAE waters
3 min read
06 August, 2018
Eighteen Indian sailors have been subjected to six months of neglect by UAE and Indian authorities, living with little food in squalid conditions after their tanker was detained near Fujairah
The desperate crew have been trying to send out messages from their stranded ship [Twitter]
Eighteen Indian sailors have spent six months stranded on board a gas tanker near the Emirati port of Fujairah, after being detained by UAE authorities and neglected by Indian authorities after the shipping company went bust.

The sailors' plight has finally come to light after months of distress calls and tweets to both the Emirati and Indian authorities, which were neglected until now.

One crew member has been sent home, while two others who are in ill health are to also be allowed back to India, according to Khaleej Times.

"One crew member, Jitendra Kumar Pandey - a 44-year-old electrical officer - was repatriated as he suffered a heart attack on board in May this year. After receiving care from the Fujairah Port Medical Centre, he was sent back home to India," the ship's second officer, Vishwa Gupta, told Khaleej Times.

Read more: Stories of origin: The invisible lives of migrants in the Gulf

Gupta, who was speaking from the port clinic, said: "Sailor Mohit Pal and I are currently in the port clinic, and we will return home in a couple of days."

The fate of the remaining 15 crew members remains unknown. It has been reported that the seamen have suffered sever weight loss due to food shortages.

There have also been reports of a lack of water and medical supplies and no electricity.

"On some days, we had two loaves of bread and some water," Gupta told Khaleej Times, adding that they cannot store any food due to the lack of electricity.

The sailors have been living off supplies donated by the Fujairah Port harbour master, the port authorities and handouts from other ships. The crew have also not been paid their wages since February.

The ship, named Maharshi Vamadeva, has been held for over a year by the Fujairah port authorities for alleged unpaid costs by its owner, Indian shipping company Varun Global. However the company has since gone bankrupt and been liquidated, leaving those onboard in a complex predicament.

The captain of the ship, Krishna Kumar, tweeted on July 24: "We are living without electrical power for last 24 days eating bread and biscuit day and night. UAE authorities gave decision on complete crew evacuation last Wednesday on 18 July. We have been pleading for help but property is being given priority overview human beings."

The present crew came aboard in February after the ship's previous staff were evacuated due to protests.

On top of this, the Emirati Federal Transport Authority (FTA) has banned any ship belonging to Varun Global from docking at any one of its ports.

"Due to repeated cases of seafarer abandonment by Varun Resources in the recent years at UAE ports and waters, and the latest case of their ship (Maharshi Vamadeva) where the crew has been abandoned on board suffering from shortage in provisions and fuel as well as lack of medical care, and unpaid salaries and dues, all ships belonging to Varun Global are banned from calling on UAE waters until further notice," said a notice of the ban issued by the FTA.

Since the liquidation of Varun Global, the ship now belongs to the State Bank of India. However, they have not paid the dues wanted by the Emirati authorities or made any efforts to free the ship or its crew.

The sailors allegedly attempted to abandon ship on 31 July, a decision made by the captain after getting the green light from the Fujairah Port authorities. However, they were stopped by the Fujairah Coast Guard and remain stranded on the ship.

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