A section of the ship. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Two Indian sailors stranded on a decaying merchant ship abandoned off the UAE coast have sent out an SOS as their food supplies have run out.

For the past 31 months, engineers Vikas Mishra, 34, and Arsu Lobo, 49, have been roughing it out aboard the cargo carrier MV Tamim Aldar in the fervent hope of getting their salaries, which are allegedly pending since March 2016.

The Consul General of India in Dubai and Mission to Seafarers had been delivering them provisions every few days. But now the seamen are on the brink of starvation as their supplies have exhausted and they have barely anything left to eat.

Vikas Mishra

“Sir, kindly send us urgent provision … it is difficult to survive without food, we are struggling for drinking water,” said Mishra in desperate tweets this week to Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and the Consul General of India (CGI) in Dubai.

Earlier, he posted a picture on Twitter of himself preparing noodles on a makeshift stove.

It was captioned: “Today lunch prepared. We are living like humanity was living on the earlier stage. Daily Maggi only.”

Critical condition

Mishra described his condition as critical when Gulf News reached out to him on his cellphone that works intermittently.

“We are stuck 24 nautical miles away from Hamriya Port (Sharjah) and 11.5 nautical miles away from Ras Al Khaimah. We have been struggling badly all these months, but now our situation is critical. When I boarded the vessel, I weighed 83-kilograms. Now I am down to 63-kilograms. We don’t have food or water and our vessel is not under command,” he added in reference to the vessel being unable to manoeuvre.

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Engineer Vikas Mishra preparing food on a makeshift stove aboard cargo carrier MV Tamim Aldar.

“There is no fuel and the main engine generator has stopped working. As a result, the ship remains cloaked in darkness during nights, posing a serious hazard to other vessels,” said Mishra. “We have an emergency generator, but we use it sparingly — mostly to charge our cellphones so that we could call our families and inform the outside world about our plight. We have now been at sea for 31 months at a stretch, but we won’t leave the ship unless our dues are settled,” added Mishra, a father of two children aged nine and three years.

Legal disputes

The cargo vessel on which the men are stranded since September 2017, flies a UAE flag and is owned by Dubai-based Elite Way Marine Services which has been caught up in financial disputes involving its other vessels in the past.

Consul General of Indian in Dubai, Vipul said he’s in talks with various parties to resolve the stand-off between the sailors and the owners of the ship.

“Elite Way Marine Services owed months in salary payments to 31 Indian sailors across eight ships. Of them, 23 have been paid and repatriated while the rest are awaiting clearance. We are in regular touch with the sailors aboard MV Tamim Aldar and also actively working with the Federal Transport Authority (FTA), the port authorities and the owners of Elite Way to resolve the issue,” Vipul told Gulf News.

He said he’s also trying to arrange food provisions for the stranded sailors. “Let’s bear in mind that sending food regularly to two men stuck in the sea is an expensive proposition. The food costs just Dh300, but hiring a boat to deliver it sets us back by Dh2,500 each time,” said Vipul.

Abdul Mahalik, an accountant at Elite Way Marine Services said the company is struggling to pay its employers because of a financial crunch. “We are hoping to come up with a solution soon,” he said.

Why are the sailors not leaving the ship

The sailors fear they will lose their bargaining power if they leave the ship. ‘We are determined to stay aboard till our wages are paid. Four crew members who left the ship last month got just half of their outstanding salaries,” said Vivek Mishra who claims the company owes him $65,000 (Dh238,745) towards 26 months of unpaid salaries.