Sailors abandoned off UAE coast to remain at sea until demands are met

Sailors abandoned off UAE coast to remain at sea until demands are met
3 min read
21 April, 2019
Sailors abandoned on board a ship off the coast of the UAE say they will remain on board until they receive their outstanding salaries in full.
Some of the sailors have been at sea since 2016 [AFP]

A group of abandoned sailors engaged in a long standoff with a shipping company have vowed to stay on-board off the UAE coast until they get the full wages they are owed.

The sailors, some of whom have been on board for more than two years, have faced intimidation and verbal threats from the companies refusing to pay their outstanding salaries, The National reported.

Some sailors on board ships off the coast of Ajman, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain conceded in their fight earlier this month, agreeing to accept half of the wages they are owed in return for having the vessels towed to shore.

A total of 31 crew members have been on board the seven ships - some since October 2016.

The crew of one ship, the MV Azraqmoiah, have vowed to remain on board the tanker until they receive the full amount of their outstanding salaries.

Oath Marine Services, the Indian shipping agent which supplied the crew to work on the ship, says it will lose money if it repays the sailors' wages in full.

The ship's captain claims his ten person crew has been on the receiving end of threats from Oath.

"We are in a critical situation here, yet we are now getting abusive and threatening demands," said Captain Ayyaapa Swaminathan, owed about $77,000.

"The men are getting scared by this intimidation and are unsure of our safety when we are repatriated to India."

The other crew members are owed around $10,000 each, in addition to end of service payments and repatriation costs.

Swaminathan has lodged a complaint with the Directorate General of Shipping India (DGSI), which confirmed it has begun an investigation into the threats and unpaid salaries.

Oath denies the captain's claims.

"This office has already taken up the issue of abandonment and non payment of wages by the owner and with the UAE Federal Transport Authority," said Subhash Barguzer, deputy director of DGSI, said.

"We are in regular touch with the crew."

The sailors' lawyers say Oath, which describes itself as the "leading manning company in Dubai", could make thousands of dollars in commission if crew members accept less than their full wages.

The company's recruitment and placement services license has already been revoked by the DGSI following the abandonment of the ships.

Several of the other six vessels operated by Oath have already been towed to shore, with some of the crew repatriated.

One of the ships will be towed to India and sold for scrap, in order to settle some of the outstanding debt.

Four crew members on the Tamim Aldar were taken to land this week after accepting half of their outstanding salaries.

Another five sailors remain on board the ship, where only one generator is working, meaning the crew only have access to power for four hours a day.

The ship's owner has not provided fuel or supplies since December.

Charities have stepped in to provide water and food, and the Indian Embassy has delivered medication for the ship's captain.

We approached Oath Marine Services for comment but have yet to receive a response.