Four seafarers, with assistance from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), have seized a cargo ship off the port of Dakar in Senegal after months without pay and mounting danger to their lives.
The four crew of the Onda had been battling to have the engine of their vessel repaired. Port authorities have ignored their requests for help for more than a year.
Acting on behalf of the four crew, the ITF went to a Senegalese court to have the ship legally seized, as its ongoing position near a busy shipping lane left crew and others vulnerable to collision at night, with no engine to power the vessel’s warning lights.
The vessel remains seized until the owners pay the more than $84,000 owed in wages to the beleaguered crew. Seizing the vessel means the ship cannot be used by its owner until the debts are settled.
The ITF is also claiming costs from the owners as they left the ship at anchor for lengthy periods without providing adequate provisions for the crew, as a shipowner is obliged to under the Maritime Labour Convention and most seafarer contracts. The ITF has stepped in on several occasions to ensure the seafarers did not starve.
The authorities in Dakar have refused to allow the ship into the port, claiming the port was too busy. The officials have persistently ignored requests from the ITF to intercede on behalf of the seafarers. The ITF claims the authorities are effectively violating the terms of the MLC which gives them a clear responsibility to protect seafarer welfare when neither owner nor flag state steps in. In this case, the owners allowed registration of the ship to lapse some time ago, meaning there is no flag state.
“The Onda has been described as a ghost ship left to its fate by the owners and authorities. Both have completely neglected their responsibilities to look after the crew. They seem not to care that four human beings have been left to rot with inadequate food and water and no way off the ship,” said Steve Trowsdale, inspectorate coordinator at the ITF.
The ITF have said the next stage will be to go back to court to have the ship auctioned off if the back wages are not paid.
The news in Senegal comes at a time when cases of crew abandonment are hitting new highs. Upwards of 1,682 seafarers coming from 103 vessels were cast adrift as 2022 became the worst year on record for reported cases of seafarer abandonment, according to RightShip.
(Culled from Splash 247.com)