The reality is that today many seafarers around the world face difficulties in rotation as it is difficult for companies to provide replacement crewmembers and, consequently, to sign off due to the restrictive measures imposed in the world on entry and exit from/to countries. The international crew of the ship Vega 1 (flag of Panama, IMO 8516756) was in the same situation, but the proved to be doubly unlucky as two months before the introduction of the self-isolation regime in Russia they were abandoned by the shipowner.
Port State control (PSC) detained Vega 1 on January 31, 2020 in Tuapse due to non-payment of wages to seafarers as well as technical deficiences found during the inspection on the ship. The crewmembers addressed to the ITF inspector in Novorossiysk, Olga Ananina, on February 23 .
“By that time, food supplies came to an end and the Turkish company Fora Maritime Corporation actually abandoned the crew, " she says. The wage arrears were about $60 thousand. However, until today, the situation on board has generally remained normal.
So, in early March, the Seafarers Union of Russia allocated funds for the purchase of food and water for the crew, and at the end of April the ITF did the same. In addition, the issue of payment of the debt to the crew of the m/v Vega 1, consisting of citizens of Turkey, India and Georgia, was partially resolved when the P&I Hanseatic assumed responsibility instead of the shipowner. However, payments were made only for four months according to the insurance certificate required by the MLC.
- Unfortunately this is not the full amount of debt, - explains Olga Ananina. - The P&I paid only $42 thousand based on the minimum wage scale, without taking into account overtime. By the way, the wage of Indian OS it is only $300 dollars so the increase with overtime payment could be a very significant amount for a seafarer. It is still unclear how to recover the remaining debt. Given that the restrictions are being lifted gradually and the courts have not yet started working in full force, the issue of final settlement remains still open – continues the ITF inspector in the port of Novorossiysk. In addition Fora Maritime Corporation owed the port authorities, the terminal and agents during the moorage of the m/v Vega 1 in Tuapse. Meanwhile, the latter provided constant support to the seafarers, including providing water supply from the shore.
The Indian Embassy was very active from the very beginning in providing assistance to its citizens, which also gave hope for an early resolution of the situation. In mid-May, India unveiled a program to help compatriots in difficult situations abroad. It organizes evacuation flights to different countries of the world, including Russia.
- It took a huge effort of representatives of the P&I, which in strict conditions of quarantine when even movement between the subjects of the Krasnodar territory was prohibited, organized the issue of exit visas for seafarers, – says Olga Ananina. - And tickets were already booked for May 28 to Moscow. But everything fell apart because of the authorities ' demand to pass a 14-day quarantine on arrival in the capital. Now the opportunity to be at home with the Indians will appear only after June 15. We all very much hope that this time everything will work out.
As for the rest of the crew, it is not clear how long the Georgian will remain on board as his replacement is not yet planned. And two Turks have expressed a desire to wait for further orders from the shipowner. This is despite the fact that the situation on board the ship is getting worse every day.
Just today the crewmebers reported that they did not fully take food for three days as the products they purchased with funds allocated by the SUR and the ITF ran out. In particular, there is no more cooking oil, salt and water. The crewmembers noted that they advised the company about this but they replied that they could not help in any way."We are in a very difficult situation," the seafarers say. Without food, water and electricity it is very difficult to survive on board the vessel.