12 Mumbaikars languish over a year in ship off Scotland

Updated: Aug 10, 2017, 14:26 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Their Mumbai-based company went bankrupt; the vessel can only be released after the company pays around USD 8 lakh which it owes, as per international maritime norms

Clay Vaz with his family
Clay Vaz with his family

For over a year, 12 crew members of a supply vessel, most of them from India (Navi Mumbai and Mumbai), have been detained at the Aberdeen Port, north east Scotland, after their company went bankrupt. The crew has not been paid their salary by the company, M/s Gol Offshore Ltd since then, making life difficult for their loved ones in India. On the vessel for over a year, their fuel and food are also running out.

The crew is running out of fuel and food on the ship, Platform Service Vessel Malaviya 7
The crew is running out of fuel and food on the ship, Platform Service Vessel Malaviya 7

The family of Clay Vaz, 52, one of the crewmembers on the vessel, has been struggling to make ends meet. His wife, Assumption, is doing everything possible to get him back to India.

Salary stopped
She said, "My husband would send over Rs 45,000 earlier, which was sufficient to run the family of three, but since the money stopped (over a year ago), it is difficult to meet the expenses at home. I had to take up a job as an executive assistant, since past three months on a salary of Rs 20,000."

As the stranded crewmembers don't have documents to be in the UK, they can be held if they leave the port
As the stranded crew members don't have documents to be in the UK, they can be held if they leave the port

Assumption added, "My husband had worked for this company for 29 years and he is now worried, as it has not paid them for over a year and his gratuity and provident fund are also at stake. I had to mortgage my gold jewellery to ensure my daughter's college fee is paid on time."

Speaking to mid-day through email, Vaz said, "The problem started three years ago. Our salaries started coming late and now they have stopped completely."

Detained, not paid
"We were detained by the coast guard in UK, as the company has not paid our salary for months and it owes around $8 lakh to clear the dues. Only then the vessel can be released as per international maritime norms," he said.

Chief Officer Bamadev Swain said he feels powerless, "Both my children need money to start their careers and with only my wife at home, it has been a lot of trouble."

The ITF - International Transport Workers' Federation and Doug J. Duncan, the Port Chaplain who works for the Apostles of the Sea – a charity - along with locals, are helping them with provisions, a generator, etc. he said.

"Clay's passport expired in May and Doug went out of his way to take him to the Indian Consulate to renew it. I tried tweeting about the crew to Sushma Swaraj, Minister for External Affairs, hoping that she would intervene, but I got no response," said Assumption.

The issue
mid-day has learnt from senior officials attached to the liquidation process on behalf of Union Bank of India, that the bank had lent around Rs 35 crore to the shipping company, M/s Gol Offshore Limited, a Mumbai registered company also having offices in UAE and Malaysia. The company had mortgaged the Platform Service Vessel Malaviya 7, few years ago.

The official said, "The company had taken similar loans from other private and nationalised banks, but due to the freight rate coming down drastically, it had to incur heavy losses and was struggling to break even. Moreover they were also finding it difficult to have the mandatory fitness certification as most of the vessels owned by the company were more than a decade old."

About the vessel
IMO: 9087312
Gross Tonnage: 3001
Build: 1994
Home port: MUMBAI

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