Dubai: Eight sailors trapped on a ship off the UAE for the past nine months have send out an SOS as some of them have taken ill.
Unwittingly caught up in a legal dispute, the seamen have been stranded without full wages aboard MV Hoot, moored off the coast of Khor Fakkan since June 2019. But now their patience is running thin.
In recent days, two seamen have reportedly developed cold and fever while a third has contracted skin infection.
With no access to healthcare or medicines, the remaining crew members fear it’s only a matter of time when they will also fall sick.
“Our condition is deteriorating day by day. We are exhausted both mentally and physically. I don’t know how long we could hold on like this,” Suresh Kumar, the ship’s chief officer, said in a phone interview with Gulf News on Saturday.
He also claimed that the shipping company owed him several months of wages.
Jaspal Singh, 32, who handles engine maintenance, said they are living on borrowed time. “Two of us are running fever and our cook has developed blisters all over his body. “We have to ration drinking water as we have no access to fresh water. Many of us haven’t taken a proper bath in months, We use sea water to bath ourselves” he said.
The sailors said they have written to various authorities including the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi but their plight continues.
“Left with no choice, we reached out to Gulf News . We are desperate to go home,” said Singh.
Like other crew members, he joined the ship in May 2019.
Offshore supply vessel MV Hoot left Hamariyah Port in Sharjah on June 1 but had barely reached Khor Fakkan when it ran into trouble with coast guards for refueling in mid-sea without permission.
“It wasn’t our fault. The ship owner send us a boat carrying diesel. We were just following orders,” claimed Kumar.
On June 6, the ship was arrested and is since anchored in the same position. The matter is now in Fujairah Court.
The seamen said the ship owner supplies them food provisions every few days but they have no access to fresh water and medicines.
“We cannot leave the ship until the court delivers a verdict as our passports and Continuous Discharge Certificates (CDCs) are with authorities,” said Aman K, an able seaman.
Meanwhile, the ship’s owner has asked the stranded sailors to accept half of what they are owed in unpaid wages. Singh said he has turned down the offer. “I gave a placement firm Rs120,000 (Dh6,000) to land this job. My salary is just $400 per month, What will I be left with if they dock 50 per cent,” he reasoned. Similar fears are expressed by chief executive Kumar who joined at a salary of $1,000.
The ship owner described his offer as a ‘fair deal’. “Everybody is worried about the sailors but nobody thinks about us. The vessel hasn’t done any business as it’s stuck for ten months. We are suffering heavy losses. We have been supplying food provisions to the sailors since June. All of this costs money. I wish the men could come ashore, but that’s something that not in my hands,” he said.