society

Stranded Indian sailor wants to see his parents

Desperate crew dock ship in Sharjah port without permission to seek unpaid wages and sign off

12:54 May 29, 2017
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Dubai: The scorching summer heat is becoming unbearable for Subith K. Sukumaran, an Indian oiler on board the vessel MV Sharjah Moon that has docked at Hamriya Port in Sharjah.

But the heat that is burning inside is more agonising for the 24-year-old from Kerala who has not seen his ageing parents and younger brother for almost three years.

“I came on a one-year contract and worked for 24 months. After that only I had requested for sign off. I have been trying to go home for eight months since then. I want to see my parents. But the company is not sending me,” he told Gulf News over phone.

Every week, he said, the company promises to pay his pending salaries and send him home. But that remains a promise.

“They have not paid me for 16 months. Three months ago my mother fell ill. The company didn’t give me a penny to send home. I can’t even make calls to my parents,” he said, with a choked voice.

Harindra Singh, another oiler, lost his father last year. He has also been frustrated because he is not allowed to go home and is in a bad psychological condition.

The ship’s captain Jayaprakash Badri said the vessel with six Indian and one Sri Lankan crew members had been at anchorage in UAE waters since July 2016.

“I got two months’ salary after I joined in May 2016. Ten to 11 months’ salary is pending for me and three other crew members. Our chief engineer from Sri Lanka has to get eight months’ dues.”

“Every month I send sign off request to the company. Our calls are unanswered. Whenever I speak to the office, they say the company is looking forward to issuing sign off and paying salaries.”

“It has been over a month since we did not get any fresh water from the company. I have been sending mails for fresh water and bunker also. They were not replying.”

Without fuel, the crew said they have been living mostly in the dark. “We sleep on our deck and did not take shower for 10-15 days. We turn on the generator only for using the hotplate for cooking for one hour. We ran out of the wooden planks we used for burning to cook while at anchorage.”

Fed up with the false promises, the crew docked the vessel in to the Hamriya Port without permission on May 9 and sought the help of social worker Girish Pant to contact the Indian Consulate in Dubai.

Following this, the Consul General of India in Dubai Vipul visited the sailors on board the ship early this month.

Vipul told Gulf News that the mission had been trying to persuade the owner and the PRO of the company for last five months to solve the sailors’ issues. “They have been buying time. We have no end in sight for these sailors’ problems.”

“I visited them at the port. Since then, we have written to the immigration and the department of economic affairs in Sharjah.”

He appreciated the kindheartedness of the port and other local authorities in not taking action against the crew considering their pathetic situation.

He said the consulate is ready to arrange for tickets. “But we cannot settle their pending salaries which would come around Dh200,000.”

“We had helped solve same problem with another ship belonging to the same company two to three months back. We hope the local authorities will help solve this one soon.”

“I am concerned about their safety because some are showing suicidal tendencies as they have been in a pathetic condition without proper food and water.”

Post his visit to the ship, the mission sent food and water to the sailors and also took one of them to the hospital with the help of the Indian Association Sharjah.

When contacted, the Pakistani owner of Sharjah-based Alco Shipping Company, to which the vessel belongs, did not respond to calls. The PRO of the firm said he did not deem he is answerable to newspapers. “If they have issues they can go to labour department. If you want, you can talk to their embassy,” he said.

Three more ships are stranded

Dubai: The plight of sailors stranded on board three more ships have come to light after the SOS calls received from the vessel MV Sharjah Moon, said Indian social worker Girish Pant.

“I have been following up the cases of four ships, including Sharjah Moon. All the ships belong to Alco Shipping Company,” he told Gulf News.

“It is heartbreaking to hear their plight and answering calls from their families back home. The company had promised to pay 50 per cent of the outstanding salaries and release the seafarers. It has been almost a month now but nothing happened so far.”

Vessel MT Ocean Pride has nine Indian crew members and a Pakistani captain. They have been at anchorage off Hamriya Port for two years.

The cook has completed two years of service and not been paid for 16 months. Others have not been paid for almost a year.

Sailors said there is no water since last month. “Our sign off requests are not heard. Food is provided for one month or half a month. We have no medicines in stock and we are living completely in darkness now. If the situation continues, we will start hunger strike,” a crew member said.

Another vessel MV Ocean Grace has four Indian crew members, a chief engineer from Sri Lanka, 61, and a Filipino captain, 65, aboard.

“The ship has been at anchorage for almost one year about eight miles away from the breakwater in Ajman. Our salaries are pending for 19 months. A young oiler is suffering from kidney problem. Water is running out, diesel is very less,” said the chief engineer.

On MV ABS 1, one Indian and one Sri Lankan sailors have not been paid for 19 months. “Our contract was for one year and we worked for 25 months. We want to go home,” said one of them.