As it became known, since January 7, the abandoned crew of the bulk carrier “Ula” (IMO number: 8102414) went on a hunger strike, desperately trying to write off the ship and collect over $ 400,000 in wages in arrears. Six crew members had already been hospitalized to stabilize blood pressure and blood sugar levels before being returned to the ship. The lives of sailors will continue to be in danger if they continue to refuse food and water.
“Most of the crew have been on board for 14 months, and some have already spent more than two years on board (!). These sailors are simply asking Kuwait to replace them with a local crew so they can return home to their families.” The loss of job and income, as well as their unresolved refusal case, forced the sailors to oppose their wage arrears. They say their families cannot afford to leave the ship empty-handed. Over the past 11 months, MV Ula’s crew has been abandoned by Qatari shipowner Aswan Trading and Contracting. (Aswan has been blacklisted since 2017).
“My mother, father, sister and younger brother depend on me and my support as my father lost his job due to the Covid-19 pandemic. So now I am the only one who has a job, but I have not had a salary for 11 months. … We took out a loan, but we cannot return it, ”one seafarer told the ITF. “The Kuwaiti authorities must take urgent action to save these sailors from committing suicide as a result of this hunger strike. Although the Qatari shipowner and the Palauan flag state have let these sailors down, we urge Kuwait to show leadership in resolving this crisis, ”said Mohamed Arrachedi, ITF Arab World Coordinator and Iranian International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).
When the ship is abandoned, it is usual for the Flag State to intervene to take measures to keep the crew alive and to ensure that due wages are paid. “Palau has failed in its task,” says Arrachedi. “The ITF has repeatedly raised the issue of funding shortages and wages owed, but no action was taken.” Palau stopped registering the vessel in September 2020, and the vessel remains flagless to this day and the crew’s demands have not been met. “Since the ship is now without a flag, the decision of the situation remains at the discretion of the Kuwaiti maritime authorities. Kuwait is legally and morally responsible for rescuing these seafarers while there is still time. As always, the ITF is ready to provide any possible assistance, ”said Arrachedi.
Author – Georgy Klyuev