The Third mate, who had previously applied to The Seafarers Union of Russia (SUR) with request for assistance in repatriation, finally returned home. The seafarer spent a little less than a year on the ship from August 29, 2019, and also in the last few months he suffered from health problems, first of all, toothache. At the same time, he could not get qualified medical assistance as due to restrictions in the ports of call visiting medical centers was actually prohibited. In return, only a doctor’s consultation on board was offered, which in this case could not help much. All this time he could survive only by using painkillers.
The first time a crewmember contacted the union in early July, when the ship was under repair in the Chinese port of Jiangyin. At that time his contract, which had previously been extended four times, expired, so on July 1, he stopped performing his duties and advised the shipowner-the German company Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement about it. Though the response from the company was not received, as well as his previous requests for medical assistance. After receiving the seafarer’s letter, the SUR contacted the company, which said that after repairs the ship will proceed to Malaysia and from there to Singapore, where the crewmember will be repatriated. According to representatives of the shipowner, it was impossible to carry out the shift earlier. However, in Singapore everything went wrong.
The planned repatriation on August 1 did not take place due to the fact that one of the Filipino relievers fell ill with coronavirus. The departure of a crewmember with an expired contract was again uncertain. The international Department of the SUR again contacted the company to find out its further intentions. When the vessel called Malaysia, the seafarer asked for support from the local Consulate but it also did not give him a chance to come back to his native Vladivostok. Fortunately, the company soon informed the union that the repatriation was planned in the Indian port of Kandla as in the twenties of July, the country allowed a change of foreign seafarers. According to the Third mate, the crew managed to bring the moment of repatriation even closer by persuading the company to carry out a shift earlier, while en route to the Maldives.
The way home from there was not easy. First the seafarer took the flights from the Maldives to Doha-Munich–Minsk, from there the he went by car to Moscow, and then again by plane to Vladivostok. The entire route took about three days. Finally, on August 8, the crewmember advised the union that he had reached home safely and thanked the SUR for their help and support. «Sad to say, that such situations can no longer surprise anyone, - said the SUR. Such factors as the lack of early medical care or expired contracts can be bitterly called the new norm in the shipping industry so the rights of seafarers are violated on regular basis. It is incorrectly to blame only the shipowners, who in most cases really face serious difficulties and go to great expense in order to arrange the repatriation. The problem is the lack of concerted action on the part of all states of the world. A huge number of ports are still closed for repatriation. Long– term planning is also becoming a challenge for shipowner as new changes and rules are constantly coming into force, which can be difficult to comply with».