Abandoned Indian seafarers closer to going home

Twelve Indian seafarers are closer to being repatriated after a Scottish court agreed to the sale of the Malaviya Seven, an India-owned and -flagged platform support vessel that has been detained in Aberdeen since June 2016, the UK Chamber of Shipping has reported. A hearing was held on August 10th. A total of 24 seafarers, including some who have already been repatriated, are owed more than $867,000 by the vessel’s owner, India-based GOL Offshore.

Subsequent to the hearing, the crew’s collective wages have been capped at $1,500 a day until further notice. The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) said that it regretted the wage cap, but that agreeing to the arrangement was its only means to get the court to expedite the claims process. The ITF has appointed an independent assessor from Ireland to oversee the sale of the Malaviya Seven, but the court needs a ‘for sale’ report before it can issue its decree ordering an auction.

The crew members have a high-ranking maritime lien on the vessel for their outstanding wages – only the expenses of the Admiralty Marshal take precedence, but how much they will end up recovering is at the hands of the market. Malaviya Seven’s current market value stands at $1.1m with a scrappage value of $870,000, according to VesselsValue data.

The UK Chamber of Shipping observed that the hearing’s outcome highlighted the complexity of the situation. The vessel was detained on June 14th 2016 by the UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency. Although the crew have been provided for in Aberdeen with the help of charities, they are also under pressure to provide for their families at home.

The ITF alleged that the Indian flag state had offered no help, and neither had the bank acting on behalf of the vessel’s owner.

Tim Springett, UK Chamber policy director, noted that the recently introduced amendments to the ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 would have helped the crew. “The new requirement that all shipowners provide financial security to protect seafarers in the event that they are abandoned was agreed with occurrences such as this in mind. The crew would have become entitled to claim up to four months’ arrears of wages directly from the provider of the financial security – who would also have been obliged to pay for them to be repatriated”.

However, Springett observed that “both the relevant flag and port states already had responsibilities under the MLC to intervene and ensure the repatriation of the crew where the owner of the ship has failed to do so.”