'Historic' HC order allows stranded sailors to leave Tag Navya ship
Following mid-day's report about the plight of crew members suffering for over two months, Bombay High Court intervenes
After being stranded aboard the Tag Navya vessel, which has been anchored near Nhava jetty, for over two months, its 16 sailors can finally go home. The crew heaved a sigh of relief on Wednesday, after it was allowed to disembark the ship following interim orders from the high court. On April 21, mid-day had reported about the sailors being stuck on the ship for 40 days over a financial dispute, with the added challenge of depleting fuel.
Back in April, the fuel on the ship was enough to last the sailors for only three days. After the mid-day report was published, the ship was immediately provided with fuel. However, the sailors' request to the Directorate General of Shipping, urging them to allow them to go home did not yield any positive response. Instead, the authorities suggested them to approach the court to resolve the issue. Accordingly, on May 10, the crew members filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court. On Wednesday, May 15, HC passed an interim order, directing the authorities to immediately allow the sailors to disembark the ship. Post HC's orders, all 16 crew members were ferried to the shore.
Sixteen crew members were finally able to go home on Wednesday
Thankful to HC
Arjun Singh Kalra, the captain of the ship, said, "We are thankful to the honourable court for bailing out the entire crew from this situation." Previously, the ship had 17 crew members on board. Asked about the one that got away, the captain said, "One of them was allowed to leave the ship earlier as he was continuously threatening to commit suicide." Tag Navya had been stationed near the jetty since April 2. According to Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) sources, the vessel was commissioned to ferry around 20,000 kilo litres of diesel from Mangalore to Mumbai for an oil and gas company.
A few months ago, the firm that supplied fuel to the vessel moved HC against Tag Offshore, the owners of the ship, over non-payment of dues. On April 2, the court instructed JNPT to arrest the ship, following which it was anchored at its current location. Akash Varma, a former merchant navy officer, who is now an RTI activist specialising in maritime issues, helped the stranded crew with legal advice. Varma alleged the crew received no help from those who should have come to their rescue.
He added, "When I got to know about the issue, I got in touch with these guys and started collecting documents and evidence to approach the court. The order has not only come as a relief to the stranded members but it is historic too, as it can be used as a precedent in any such case of inhuman behaviour being meted out to sailors stranded on a ship. The centuries-old rule which says that the captain has to die with ship has been put to an end because of this order." He also alleged that the maritime unions formed to help seafarers are defunct, "It is high time that we have a new union which works neutrally towards the welfare of seafarers instead of protecting ship owners."
Did not abandon the ship, says Tag
A senior official from Tag Offshore maintained their earlier stand stating that the company has not gone bankrupt, "For the last two years, the company has been running into financial losses. But reports of the firm abandoning the ship are not correct. We are trying to work out a solution with the lenders. I cannot comment on anything beyond this as the issue is sub judice."
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