ITF urges release of ship captain after seven months detention in Dubai without charges

Captain Santosh Kumar, an Indian national, was questioned by the police in July last year after a container being loaded on to his vessel, MV Ocean Trader (IMO 9056739), exploded at Jebel Ali Port. He has not been charged with anything, yet the Dubai police will not allow him to leave the country after seven months. The other 13 members of the crew were allowed home in November 2021.

“Detaining someone for a long period without a fair trial is an infringement of their human rights,” said Amar Singh Thakur, General Secretary the Maritime Union of India, an affiliate of the International Transport Workers’ Federation’s (ITF). 

“The UAE position on human rights has improved greatly in recent years, including the setting up of a Human Rights Authority in December 2020. One hopes that the Dubai police can live up to this promise and give Santosh Kumar permission to go home at the earliest opportunity.”

Captain’s wife asked Indian Embassy for help

Meanwhile, the captain’s wife has written to the Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi asking for its help. Mrs. Kashyap Kumar pointed out that far from doing anything wrong, her husband had actually saved lives on the day of the accident.

“He performed his duty very well,” she pointed out. “Now it is my humble request that you send him back to his family. [We have] no idea why the authorities were detaining him. He still not been allowed to come home nor has he been paid since March 2021. It is very unfair on him because while we are in lockdown, he is living in the hotel with strangers, without any precautions.”

Without proper wages coming in, Mrs. Kumar finds her family getting into trouble. Captain Kumar’s father is ill but they can no longer afford his medical bills. His six-year-old son has been expelled from school because they cannot pay the fees. He also has a two-year-old son, and Mrs. Kumar fears for the whole family’s wellbeing as they struggle to pay the mortgage and electricity bills.

“It was an accident,” Mrs. Kumar told the Indian Embassy, referring to the container fire. “After doing such heroic job, he is deprived of his basic rights. So, this is my request – give him clearance to come home to his country and his family.”

Flag and manager are ducking their responsibilities

The Ocean Trader is registered in Comoros (an island group in the Indian Ocean) and managed by Inzu Ship Charter LLC, based in Dubai. The ITF has written to both asking them to fulfill their obligations under international law and help Captain Kumar. Comoros has not answered and while Inzu is paying the captain a small allowance, it has not paid him (or the rest of the crew) full wages since March last year.

“If Inzu would meet its obligations on pay, that would go a long way to alleviating the suffering of Captain Kumar’s family at home,” said Steve Trowsdale, the ITF’s Inspectorate Coordinator. “But they won’t pay and they offer no help in negotiating with the Dubai police force.”

Thus far, neither has the Indian Embassy made progress in securing Captain Kumar’s release.

“It seems only the Dubai police can stop the suffering for this man and his family,” said Trowsdale. “I appeal to them directly: end your enquiries now and allow Captain Kumar to go home.”

Photo credit: ITF

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