In a shocking case of apathy, 25 Indian sailors on two gas carriers have been stranded near Dubai’s Rashid port for nearly two years now.
Seventeen crew members of the Varun Shipping-owned, 1991-built, Singapore-registered Maharshi Bhavatreya and eight crew members of the 1983-built Maharshi Dattatreya are trapped at the port as both vessels are waiting to get in for dry-docking. Dry-docking of a ship has to be done every two-three years in order to maintain the vessel and is one of the norms that need to be met by every shipping company.
“Bhavatreya has been waiting to go for dry-docking since December 2012. It has been one-and-a-half years now, but the ship is still anchored 13-14 miles away from the port. There are no signs of when it will be taken to the port for dry docking,” Rajkiran Raikar, captain of Maharshi Bhavatreya told Business Standard. “Every time, the owner (Varun Shipping) gives us a timeline of one-two weeks. We have been getting deadlines since the last three months,” he added.
“Dry-docking is expensive, but the owner already has four ships at the port for dry-docking, which means he has the funds to dry-dock. Then why are we stranded for so long? Signing off the crew does not take much money. He can relieve us and then dry-dock the ship but why keep us stranded here without a definite time-frame?” asked Raikar.
Apart from the never-ending wait period, the crew of the two vessels are facing serious safety issues as well.
“Our safety equipment are not working. The air-conditioner is not functioning and Dubai is so hot during these months. Only one generator is working at present and this poses the threat of a complete black-out on the ship anytime,” Raikar said.
The prolonged stay on ship without any contact with family members is also affecting the crew mentally, said Raikar.
“Just two days back, one of the crew members Anto Aldrin (age 23 years) who is a fitter by job title got violent and desperately wanted to go home. We had to urgently make arrangements and just yesterday he was relieved. Such is the situation here. The crew is getting frustrated. None have seen or heard from their families for months now. It is inhuman, we feel imprisoned,” said Raikar.
This is not the first time where Varun Shipping’s fleet is facing such a problem. Last month, sixteen crew members of the company’s Maharishi Devatreya cargo ship were set free after being stranded near the Dubai port for almost a year.
The situation is equally bad at the Maharshi Dattatreya vessel which is stranded at the port of Rashid for the last two years.
“The crew is living in pathetic condition. The air conditions are not functioning and all are living in a common space. There is no communication with outside world,” Captain Pankaj Kumar, captain of Maharshi Dattatreya said in an emailed interaction with Business Standard.
Almost the entire set of crew which has been contracted by Varun Shipping on these two vessels has completed more than three times the contract period signed and has yet not received its pay, said captains of both the vessels.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult for us to manage our family expenses, school fees, medical expenses and repayment of loans. Every time we get a false assurance from the company that our salary will be paid and will get relief in a week of two. Now eight months have passed without any pay for us,” said Pankaj Kumar of Maharshi Dattatreya.
Attempts made by both vessels to touch base with Dubai Maritime City Authority and DG Shipping but have been in vain, said the two captains.
Calls and messages made by Business Standard to Varun Shipping and DG Shipping also went unanswered.