The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) continues to press for wages owed, with the owner presenting part of the payment owed to some crew members.
In April 2020, the ITF insisted that the vessel be admitted to the port of Shuaiba in Kuwait. But the crew was unable to disembark.
When wage payments were stopped for the third time, tensions on board escalated and four seafarers were locked in their cabins.
The captain reported a mutiny on board to the authorities in Palau and Kuwait. A special committee was set up with representatives from the ILO, IMO, ITF, the Qatari owners, the Indian Embassy and the Palau flag state where the ship was registered. But no solution was reached.
In May, the Kuwait Port Authority took action, detained the vessel and its cargo of construction materials.
Authorities discovered that the vessel’s owner, Aswan Trading and Contracting of Qatar, had been banned since February 13, 2017, and that the company’s chairman was wanted by Qatari law enforcement.
When a vessel is abandoned, the ship’s flag state normally intervenes to preserve the lives of the crew and ensure that wages owed are paid.
“Palau did not do its job,” Arrachedi argues. “The ITF repeatedly raised the lack of provisions and wages owed, but no action was taken.”
“Since the ship is now unflagged, it is left to Kuwait’s maritime authorities to resolve the situation. Kuwait has a legal and moral responsibility to save these seafarers while there is still time. As always, the ITF is standing by to assist in any way we can,” Arrachedi said.
Generally, in cases of abandonment, the ship’s insurance would cover some of the crew’s wages, or in such a case the owner.
But the insurer is not an affiliate of the P&I Club and since the Kuwait Port Authority has facilitated a crew change to replace the crew, the owner is refusing to pay. The crew is now calling on the Kuwaiti authorities to take action.
The crew complains that the Kuwait Port Authority informs them that “very soon you will receive your wages and go home.”
” But that’s what they have been telling us for five months, ” the seafarer said. “We have gone almost 12 months without a single dollar. We need written guarantees.”
The crew of the bulk carrier MV Ula, says that all along the authorities who were supposed to take action, have failed to do so.
“The flag state did nothing,” said one. ” The Kuwait Port Authority provides basic necessities on board, but our families get nothing. They need to eat too,” he said.
The ITF has reiterated its offer of legal assistance and called on the Kuwaiti authorities for an urgent solution. Mohamed Arrachedi of the ITF has expressed concern for the welfare of the crew.
“Being on hunger strike since January 7 is very serious and requires urgent action,” Arrachedi said.
“Lives are at risk. The ITF is on standby to help in any way we can.”
The crew hunger strike continues.