The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has assisted abandoned crews in Sudan and Lebanon for the first time and delivered humanitarian assistance as the number of cases like this in the region increases due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Lee Kok Leong, executive editor, Maritime Fairtrade, reports
In Sudan, the ITF delivered provisions to seven Egyptian seafarers who were unable to leave the port to source basic food or hygiene essentials. Importantly, the ITF is also in the process of securing wages owed to the crew since April 2019. The crew of the Tanzanian-flagged Nader (IMO 7529861) has been stranded in Suakin port in November 2019, with their movement severely limited and no means of returning home.
The ITF stepped forward to deliver the humanitarian assistance after the owner failed to meet its responsibilities, and the Tanzania flag administration showed total inaction. Some of the seafarers have been paid the wages they are owed, with the rest awaiting full payment and repatriation to Egypt once Covid-19 travel restrictions are eased.
In the second case, 18 Syrian seafarers were abandoned in November 2019 in Beirut, Lebanon, on board the Sierra Leone-flagged vessel Hannoud-o (IMO 8813037). With the help of local contacts, the ITF was able to get humanitarian supplies to the crew.
The crew have not been paid since December 2019. Moreover, they have not been given any information by the owner and the Sierra Leone flag administration has offered no assistance.
ITF Arab World and Iran network coordinator Mohamed Arrachedi, who was involved in both cases, said: “We are seeing an increasing number of abandonments in the region, with several cases of abandonment ongoing in Sudan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Iran and Djibouti. The ITF’s denounces this behavior by shipowners, we will not let them act with impunity. We will expose them and secure dignity and basic rights for the seafarers.
“With the extra uncertainty created by Covid-19, many seafarers are facing unacceptable levels of psychological pressure. The whole maritime industry must work together to ensure that seafarers do not bear the greatest burden from this crisis.”