Dubai: An Indian marine engineer, who has been stranded in the UAE waters for 38 months, finally set foot on the mainland on Sunday and hopes to fulfill his son’s wish to be home as his gift for this Christmas.
Vikash Mishra, who will turn 35 on December 28, had spent the longest time without wages aboard MV Tamim Aldar, a decaying vessel abandoned 24 nautical miles off the coast of UAE by Elite Way Marine Services since March 2017.
It was Mishra’s daughter’s fourth birthday on Sunday, when he and Arsu Lobo, 49, the chief engineer who was stranded for 31 months, came out of the Dubai Maritime City to the mainland.
“She was only 10-months-old when I left home,” Mishra, the second engineer, told Gulf News while shopping for gifts for his children at a hypermarket in Karama.
“I badly wished to be home for her birthday today. But, I am happy that I will be home for Christmas at least. My son had made a Christmas card wishing Santa to give my return home as his gift for this Christmas. I hope I can fulfill that at least.”
It has been three-years of ordeal for Mishra, Lobo and two of their Eritrean colleagues, Welday Mehari and Capt Tesfamikiel Keflemariam. They are the last four to leave the vessel abandoned by Elite Way that ran into financial crisis and was eventually banned by the UAE’s Federal Transport Authority (FTA).
Mishra said the company paid him only in the first five months. After that, salaries stopped. In the following months, the crewmen also ran out of food, water and fuel. They went through a harrowing time including blackouts in sizzling summer months.
In May 2019, Gulf News had written about their SOS call to authorities after they ran out of food supplies. The Indian Consulate in Dubai and Mission to Seafarers, that assists seafarers in trouble, had been delivering them provisions every few days.
In July, Gulf News highlighted their plight again when the crew decided to abandon the dilapidated ship after trying to escape a lifeboat.
“But we had to go back to the vessel after the company promised to authorities that they would settle our payments and sign us off,” said Mishra.
Since that didn’t happen for weeks, he said, the vessel was towed ashore by Mubarak Marine which later coordinated with the company for settling their payment.
“I was 83kg when I boarded the ship. When I reached the port on August 8, I weighed 67kg. Now I weigh almost the same. I lost a lot of my hair and grew a lot of white hair,” Mishra said, while recounting how the stressful life in the sea changed his appearance.
Mishra and Lobo, father of a 14-year-old boy, said they finally received a settlement of 80per cent of $164,000 that Elite Way owed between them. They thanked Andy Bowerman of the Mission to Seafarers, the Indian Consulate, FTA, the media and others who supported them.
Consul General of India in Dubai, Vipul said there were 31 Indian sailors who were stranded on vessels belonging to Elite Way Marine Services. “Twenty-nine had been repatriated earlier. We are happy that the last two are now returning home.”