Abandoned at sea: crew sent home after 13 months marooned off Tunisia
After being left adrift, abandoned off the Tunisian coast without wages, food and fuel, 12 seafarers on board the Qaaswa have been sent home after 13 months marooned off the Port of Sfax.
This is the latest instalment in one of most notorious cases of abandonment that the ITF has seen in years, and the third crew onboard the UAE-flagged tanker that have been successfully repatriated after being abandoned at sea by Alco Shipping Services.
The crew of 12 from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Myanmar flew home on May 31, 2019, each with thousands of dollars in unpaid wages, totalling USD$130,952 for the eight months that they were owed.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has continued to intervene over the past three years to assist, repatriate and recover wages for seafarers stranded on the Qaaswa, and provided the crew with provisions and drinking water.
“We’re thankful that this crew have been successfully repatriated to their home countries. They have suffered and starved, while Alco Shipping Services has acted with impunity. Today these brave seafarers finally have a resolution and are at home with their families,” said Steve Trowsdale, ITF inspectorate coordinator.
“We are going home after 13 months,” said one of the seafarers before flying home. “Thanks to ITF and special thanks to Mohamed Arrachedi and Captain Majed for your assistance. We are going home with our wages. Thank you very much.”
ITF inspector and Arab World contact network lead Mohamed Arrachedi congratulated the Tunisian union and UAE authorities for their actions in support of the seafarers.
“The ITF family extends our sincere thanks to our affiliate, the Federation Nationale des Transports/UGTT, and to the UAE FTA for their collaboration and support during these long, difficult months,” he said.
Abandonment causes immense problems for seafarers and their families. Not only do the crew in question find themselves stranded in a foreign country with no money or food, but they lose the ability to support their families, send their children to school and pay their mortgages, and are also more likely to suffer mental and physical health problems.
In 2014, the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) was amended to introduce a financial security system to cover the costs of repatriation, four months unpaid wages and essential supplies for abandoned seafarers. These amendments came into force in January 2017. Since then, the ITF has been monitoring cases of abandonment around the world.
“Alco Shipping Services’ practices have no place in a modern maritime industry. No seafarer should have to go through the experience that the crews aboard the Qaaswa have endured. We vow to remain vigilant, to remain alert to cases like this. The abandonment of seafarers is a cancer of the maritime industry that all actors in the industry must work together to eradicate,” said Arrachedi.