Mumbai: Crew docked on bankrupt shipping company's vessel refuse to disembark

Updated: Jul 05, 2018, 08:15 IST | Hajra Bi and Suraj Ojha

While vessels abroad are stuck without any supplies since six months, crews of the ships docked off Mumbai refuse to disembark

Mumbai: Crew docked on bankrupt shipping company's vessel refuse to disembark
The crew of the Halani 5, which is anchored in Cameroon's Douala Port

An Andheri-based shipping firm drowned in bankruptcy, leaving nine of its ships stranded across the world. Two of the vessels belonging to Halani Shipping Pvt Ltd are docked in Nigeria, three in Dubai and five off Mumbai. While the vessels abroad are stuck without any supplies since the last six months, the crews of the ships docked off Mumbai have refused to disembark, saying that if they leave, the owner won't bother clearing their dues.

One of the vessels near Mumbai is the Saga vessel. Mohammad Sami, an oiler aboard the ship, said, "Six of us are on board and we have not got our dues. Our main engine has stopped because we have no diesel and because it's monsoon, our vessel flows anywhere. This is dangerous."

Some relief
A crew member from MV Topman ship in Dubai said they've constantly written e-mails and tweeted to various concerned agencies, finally receiving a reply from one on June 21, from the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), whose intervention helped them get a two-month work permit. The crew member said that with this permit, they're at least allowed to step out of the dock.

Legal steps
He added, "It now feels like we're out of jail. At least we can step out and walk in the city. We are deprived of money and basic facilities. The Halani group has cheated us big time. We miss our loved ones, but we are unable to make our journey back to them as we do not have any money."

These crew members might be put out of their misery soon, as the Forward Seamen's Union of India (FSUI) has now intervened in the matter. Manoj Yadav, general secretary, FSUI, told mid-day, "These seafarers have been exploited and abandoned by the Halani group since more than six months. In the meantime, the living condition on board is terrible due to no supply of food and water. With the employers stopping communication, seafarers are totally dependent on local NGOs, ITF and ports where they are anchored."

"As of now, around 150 officers and crew have approached us from the shore and the ships regarding their pending dues and that has been reported to all concerned authorities. But despite that, no action has been taken against Halani shipping. After receiving the consent of officers and seafarers, we've sent a notice and legally moved for settlement of their wages and their safe return home," he said.


Stranded in the high seas
SHIP: Halani 1, Nigeria
Wadala resident Surendra Sahani, who is working on Halani 1 as a mechanic said that, "I am here with a cook, Kuldeep Singh. There's hardly any food or water on board and the company has not paid us for two months. More importantly, there isn't enough diesel in the vessel, because of which we're staying in the dark. Our vessel is anchored in a delta in Nigeria, with a forest on one side, from where many animals like alligators and poisonous snakes enter the vessel. However, the ship owner called me on Wednesday and said they're arranging something for me and my cook."

SHIP: Halani 5, Cameroon
Arul Cherian, chief engineer of Halani-5, which is anchored in Cameroon's Douala Port said, "Seven of us are on board and we're suffering a lot because there is no diesel and no electricity. We are in hell; [but] we are here to earn money for our family. But in my case, we have to ask our family to give us money for our survival. The entire crew is awaiting pending payment, which goes up to Rs 68 lakh."

SHIP: MV Topman, Dubai
MV Topman has been in Dubai since November 28, 2017, with 11 crew members. All crew members were told that this ship will return to India in 10 days, but that never happened.

Their parent company has a branch in Sharjah, where three people are working. They visit them often, but only to give the crew members false hopes. With no cook and poor quality food being supplied to them, they've lost 5-6 kg. They have to go and beg people in the dock for every personal requirement. They don't even have money for calling thier loved ones back in India.

They tried asking the Indian Consulate in Dubai for help, and woman from there visited them in March, but nothing changed.

The other side
Speaking to mid-day, Suresh Bhambhani, advisor, Halani Shipping Pvt Ltd said, "We are facing a cash crunch and because of that, we've been facing these problems for the last two years. Since the last six to seven months, we have delayed the salary, but not on purpose. We're trying our best to pay the dues of our employees and also giving them food on board. In the future, we're also ready to sell our vessels to pay all dues."

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