The crew of the m/v Nika Fortune have been in poverty in the port of Varna (Bulgaria) for almost a year. To date on board the vessel there are three seafarers for whom the shipowner NIKA FORTUNE SHIPPING SA owes more than 130 thousand dollars. This was announced by the inspector of ITF in Bulgaria Vladimir Miladinov.
Note that the m/v Nika Fortune on December 6 last year was detained by PSC inspectors for non-payment of salaries to crew members. Money was not transferred to the seafarers for several months; the captain is not paid than a year. Over time the situation continued to deteriorate as by January 29 the amount of debt came up to more than 80 thousand dollars. Subsequently part of the money was returned to the crew but the debt continued to grow and the shipowner used to give empty promises that he would soon solve the problem.
According to Vladimir Miladinov at the beginning of the year some crew members managed to leave the vessel with a salary, although the employer underpaid each sailor from 200 to 400 dollars. The remaining three crewmembers (Russians and Ukrainian) not only did not receive money but were forced to live in extremely difficult conditions: basic personal hygiene products were not delivered on board, the shipowner occasionally transferred small amounts to the captain for food only until the beginning of summer. ITF affiliates helped organize the delivery of provisions on board. The ship is currently provided with water and electricity at the expense of local port authorities.
At the same time, Arsenal Insurance, in which the shipowner's civil liability to the crew was insured, not only refuses to fulfill its direct duties and repatriate seafarers with a salary of four months, but does not even think that it should do this. Thus in a letter to ITF lawyers a company representative stated that Standard A2.5.2 of the MLC does not imply compensation to the crew by the insurer. The subsequent correspondence in which ITF representatives reasonably objected that this was the direct responsibility of the company, did not lead to anything. According to Vladimir Miladinov, Arsenal Insurance has not responded to numerous requests. It is worth noting that at the same time the Nika Fortune ship owner’s liability insurance policy contains a clause according to which the company agrees to be responsible for repatriation in accordance with standard A 2.5 of the MLC.
According to the ITF inspector the Russian consulate cannot help seafarers with reimbursement of wages, and of course seafarers have no desire to leave the ship without money. Crew members are currently collaborating with a local lawyer of their choice who wants to seize the ship on their behalf. “It is impossible to say exactly about the progress of the case as the lawyer refuses to cooperate and does not share information that so according to him al information should remain only between him and his clients, Miladinov notes.
According to the ITF inspector at the moment there are practically no other levers of pressure on the shipowner as the ship is not only detained by PSC but also arrested by a foreign bunkering company. There is no cargo on board and Palau withdrew its flag.
“By and large at the moment there is only hope for the successful work of a local lawyer and the arrest of the vessel, said ITF inspector in Novorossiysk Olga Ananina. Then the seafarers could leave the vessel and expect to pay off the debt. However from previous experience I can say that in Bulgaria this is a very difficult process. In addition the shipowner owed not only to them - the shipchandlers and the port authorities are on the long list of pending payments. It is not known how the cost of the ship will be estimated at all and what will remain of the crew. But first of all I would like to emphasize the terrifying behavior of the insurance company, which, unfortunately once again refuses to fulfill its direct obligations according to the MLC and the Insurance Policy which they signed.