Shipowner abandons Vietnamese seafarers in Malaysian waters

The ship had been abandoned by its Vietnamese owner, leaving the crew stranded off the coast of Malaysia without food, water or fuel.

The case of the 12 seafarers onboard the Viet Tin 01, bobbing aimlessly off the coast of Malaysia, came to the attention of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and its local affiliate, the National Union of Seafarers Peninsular Malaysia (NUSPM), in June.  Now, after more than two months of anxious waiting for flights and government permissions, the Vietnamese crew are finally home in September with union support.

NUSPM Executive Secretary Ikmal Azam Thanaraj Abdullah said that the ship had been abandoned by its Vietnamese owner, leaving the crew stranded off the coast of Malaysia without food, water or fuel.

When the NUSPM heard of the crew’s plight, it began providing food and fresh water, and there was a contribution from the Vietnamese embassy in Kuala Lumpur.  Working with the Malaysia Maritime Department and the relevant agent, the union was able to get clearance to bring the crew onshore. Covid-19 test were conducted and the results were all are negative.

The ITF’s Asia/Pacific Contact Network coordinator and Hong Kong-based Inspector, Jason Lam, said that the ITF assisted when the crew came ashore in early September.  The ITF covered the costs of the seafarers’ accommodation and meals.

Lam said that a shipowner would typically cover the cost of repatriation, including accommodation and food, while seafarers waited to board flights home at the end of their contracts. But in cases of abandonment, the shipowner reneges on this responsibility, and crew are left to find the money needed to pay for these essential costs. This is made even more difficult because employers often stop paying the crew their wages for months before they finally abandon the ship, he said.

As for their wages, Abdullah from NUSPM said: “The crew were very happy, but the only thing is they did not get their salary yet. The ship might be sold as scrap, and from the proceeds they might be able to recover a portion of their salary.”

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