15 seafarers abandoned on tanker in Manila Bay

Without a rudder, food, water, electricity, lights, wi-fi, refrigeration, GPS, security or safety lights, 15 seafarers sat at anchor in Manila Bay, Philippines, abandoned on board the Spanish-flagged MV Celanova.  Lee Kok Leong, executive editor, Maritime Fairtrade, reports

According to the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), with batteries running low on their mobile phones, the crew, who are trapped 13 nautical miles out at sea, have been making calls for urgent assistance.  

The vessel is running dangerously low on fuel and diesel oil and the food, fresh water and medicines that the seafarers need to survive.  The crew have been sleeping on deck as there is no air conditioning, but recent storms forced the seafarers to take shelter in the dark below deck.

The 7,600 gross tonnage MV Celanova is a Spanish flagged LPG tanker and the owner has left the crew without pay for months.  Some of the Spanish and Caribbean crew have been on board since Aug 2019, others since Nov. On 7 Dec, the tanker broke down and lost its rudder off the Philippines coast.  Ten days later it was towed to anchor in Manila Bay.

The Philippines Port State Control detained the vessel on 14 Feb over unpaid wages following notification by the ITF, who is also urgently requesting authorities to allow the ship into port to facilitate assistance from the flag state and the vessels insurers, the American Club.

Local authorities have agreed but only on condition a tug is provided alongside the tanker and on standby while she is moored.

“I’ve worked over 14 years as an ITF inspector, I have dealt with many abandoned vessels so far and this is the first time someone has asked crew to pay tug hire,” said Luz Baz, ITF Coordinator, Spain. 

“The ship needs to be in port.  The crew can’t start the engine.  Something has to be done.  The crew are desperate.  They need fuel, fresh water, provisions, medication, safety parts.”

Alarmingly, the LPG tanker was forced to discharge its dangerous cargo of Butadiene gas to another vessel on 7 Mar because it was running out of bunker fuel needed to keep the gas refrigerated.

Baz wrote to the maritime authority in Manila warning the ship and its crew were at enormous risk of potential anchor drift, fire on board or accident due to having no capacity to maneuver.  However, no action has been taken.  Their plight is further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The ITF and Spanish Maritime Administration are working with Philippines authority and International Labor Organization to help the seafarers.

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