We want to go home, say 17 sailors stranded aboard vessel Tag Navya

Updated: Apr 21, 2019, 07:44 IST | Sanjeev Shivadekar | Mumbai

For the last 40 days, the 17-member crew of Tag Navya has been anchored off JNPT because of a financial dispute between their firm and fuel supplier. They aren't allowed to disembark and the government hasn't responded to their pleas either

Seventeen sailors have been stranded aboard a vessel, Tag Navya, anchored north of JNPT (near Nhava Jetty) for over 40 days, with no sign of respite. The owner of the vessel, a firm called Tag Offshore, allegedly accused of not paying the fuel bills and also non-payment of salaries to the crew, it seems, has now abandoned the ship.

The crew has repeatedly requested the Directorate General of Shipping (DG shipping) permission to disembark, but hasn't received a response yet. Without this, they cannot leave the ship in the middle of the sea as it will amount to a legal offence. Meanwhile, the crew, not wishing to be identified, worries that they have fuel only for three more days left on board, after which the vessel will face a complete blackout.

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The 17-member crew of Tag Navya has also written to Maritime Union of India and National Union of Seafarers of India, but both have expressed their inability to help
The 17-member crew of Tag Navya has also written to Maritime Union of India and National Union of Seafarers of India, but both have expressed their inability to help

According to sources at JNPT, Tag Navya was commissioned to ferry diesel of around 20,000 KL from Mangalore to Mumbai for a government oil and gas company. A few months ago, however, the firm that supplied fuel to the vessel moved the Bombay High Court against Tag Offshore over non-payment of its dues. On April 2, the court instructed the JNPT to arrest the ship, following which it has been anchored at its current location.

Not wishing to be identified for the story, a crew member said that they have not received salaries for the past six months. "Now, due to non maintenance, several machineries such as the AC and garbage disposal plant have become defunct. Not just is this a threat to the environment, but also to the humans on the ship. We are asking the administration to allow us to leave the ship and go homes. But our request has not been heard. Instead, we are asked to stay back to maintain the ship. The dispute is between the owner and fuel supplier. Why is the staff being made to suffer?" the onboard ship member said. He added that the prolonged confinement is affecting the mental health of the crew.

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In January, Captain Arjun Singh Kalra boarded the ship from Mumbai. Aside from him, there are 16 others on the ship. In fact, the crew's chief engineer left the ship on medical grounds in earlier this month and there has been no replacement. "It is clear violation of the minimum safe manning regulations," said another crew member.

A senior official from Tag Offshore said that allegations of the firm going bankrupt and abandoning the ship are false. "A majority of the company's business comes from one a government oil company. But, for last two years the company is running into financial losses. We are trying to work out a solution with the lender. I cannot comment anything beyond this as the issue is subjudice," he added. An email query by mid-day to DG shipping administration has not yielded a response.

Meanwhile, the crew has even written to the Maritime Union of India and National Union of Seafarers of India. "We have asked for help from the union. But, they have expressed inability to bail us out," a member claimed.

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