Crew members seeking back pay from funds generated by sale of vessel

The 21 crew members of cargo ship Evolution (IMO 9122899) are seeking back wages from the proposed sale of the vessel.

The vessel has been detained off the tip of Charleston peninsula, South Carolina since late January 2020.

The crew said in a court document  filed on May 17th that they were owed more than $355,000 under their employment contracts and also that they were entitled to share a $42,300 bonus if the vessel was sold.

A consortium of insurers have asked that the Evolution be auctioned off to pay for a shipment of iron that was damaged by saltwater when the vessel sailed to Indonesia from Iran.

The insurers were seeking to get back $1.45m from maritime firm Smooth Navigation, according to a negligence lawsuit they filed in a US federal court earlier this year. The US Marshals Service detained the vessel on January 31st, a day after it arrived in Charleston.

The crew has asked a federal judge to place a maritime lien on the ship and allow them to intervene in the insurance dispute before the auction, which was scheduled for May 19th.

Most of the stranded seamen were from the Philippines, except for the two top-ranking officers, who were from Jordan and Lebanon. About $55,000 of their back wages accrued before the ship was arrested.

The crew members, who have continued to perform their duties, were not seeking to postpone the auction.

The costs accumulated by the ship between when it arrived in Charleston up to just February 22nd included $68,000 in dockage payments, $38,000 for fuel and $800 a day in custodial fees.

The fair market value of the 25-year-old ship was estimated at $2.75m.

The bidding will start at $1.25m and will increase in minimum $10,000 increments. Would-be buyers are required to submit a $125,000 refundable deposit, according to the sale terms.

In addition to the crew wages, the Evolution’s owner and manager are said to owe Charleston-based ship chandler Coleman Supply Co about $53,200 for provisions, according to a recent court filing. The company was seeking to place a separate lien on the freighter in order to secure its 10 unpaid claims.

1995-built, Liberia-flagged, 14,743 gt Evolution is owned by Smooth Navigation SA care of manager Beta Maritime Corp of Piraeus, Greece.