Urgent calls have been made for the release of 13 crew on a pipelay crane vessel arrested off Ghana.
The Sea Horizon was arrested 10 months ago after the Nigerian company Fortune Global Shipping & Logistics claimed it was owed $1.9 million from another Nigerian company, Ranger Subsea.
Frank Coles, CEO of the vessel’s shipmanager, Wallem, says the vessel is without power and the owners are refusing to provide funds for fuel.
“This is a despicable situation that shows the gross disregard for human rights and humanitarian action on the part of most of the involved parties. The owners are an investment fund hiding behind a corporate veil, aided by their lawyers.”
Asked if there are enough regulations to protect seafarers’ human rights, Coles says: “The question should be is there enough interest in seafarers and the enforcement of seafarers human rights? The answer is an absolute no. We can have all the regulations we want, but at this juncture we lack the drive, ability and visibility to enforce the regulations with consistency.
“The seafarer is still largely an abused and ignored class of human being. Of course, this is not applicable to all and does not apply to all owners, suppliers and countries, but we have to address the inconsistencies and wrongs, and the impact on the reputation of the majority good owners and managers.”
Possibly the biggest abuse of human rights is the connection of the seafarer to the ship in times of arrest or detainment, says Coles.
“In many of these cases the owner has disappeared or run out of funds. The crew are left stranded on the ship, without wages, access to support and to a route home. The regulations give them rights in a claim, but this does not account for the false imprisonment of being held on the ship against their will. The crew should not be a part of the arrest or abandoned ship. They are hired to operate the ship and when that stops, they should be free to leave the ship. In no other industry is the employee forced to join the action of the owner.
“It should be incumbent on the arresting agent, or the port or country where the ship is abandoned to man the ship and return the crew to their home. This is the one change that should be put in place. It then needs to be enforced.”
Countries seem to abandon their citizens under these circumstances. “At best they are inert in the speed they work at,” says Coles.
“The ITF does its best but is largely unsuccessful and for the most part society does not seem to care, or at best are not well informed. Have you ever tried to get the major global media to write about this issue? I have without success. We should not have to rely on charity organizations to try and free these seafarers.”
Traditional shipowners have a nexus with the crew, says Coles. In contrast, financial players have no interest in the family of the sea and lack the connection to the well-being and health of the seafarers that make the world trade turn.
“Investing in a company or building or trucks and planes is easy. You run out of money, the staff go home. In ships you simply walk away and leave the crew stranded. Nobody wants to pay for their flight home, the local port won’t let the ship be unmanned, the conditions on board deteriorate and the investment fund writes off the bad investment.
“I think we should consider two solutions, one requires a payment into an international crew fund to deal with this situation and return them home. Require that arresting agents, and local ports etc., provide a replacement crew. Finally countries should be more active in taking accountability for their citizens.”
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