The Panama-registered vessel Seccadi remains detained by UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency at a lay-by berth at Manisty, Ellesmere Port, where it was moved to from Runcorn by Peel Ports. There have been some positive developments, but the situation remains a precarious one for the crew.
'The contracts for most of the crew identified wages so low that we had no alternative but to claim minimum rates under international law,' said Nautilus/ITF Inspector Tommy Molloy.
'For example, under ILO minimum wage rates for an AB, the monthly total is US$1,078 per month. One AB on this vessel has a contract for US$250 per month, one for US$550 per month and one for US$700 per month. Even then, they had not been paid since March.'
Mr Molloy reports that following pressure from the ITF and UK authorities, a claim amounting to US$65,418 once June wages fell due, has, for the most part, now been paid into crew members' home bank accounts. But there also remains the outstanding matter of repatriation.
Most of the crew have contracts that have expired some time ago. Some Indian crew members have been onboard since July 2016. The operators of the vessel, Voda Shipping of Turkey, have finally responded to requests for information regarding their repatriation. This is one of the reasons the vessel has been detained by MCA and one of the reasons the ITF considers the crew to have been abandoned. Non-payment of wages and not providing food and other provisions are added reasons. The shipowner has now caved in to pressure and stated it will repatriate crew members who wish to return home having completed their contracts.
The vessel will not be released from detention until these and other matters have been confirmed. The UK Border Force is involved and has also been trying to put pressure on the owners to meet their obligations.
'Everybody concerned has given the operator ample opportunity to resolve this matter,' Mr Molloy said. 'What nobody wanted is another crew stuck here for months on end relying on the goodwill of local people and organisations to keep them alive.
'Having given the crew a period to remain in the UK whilst we attempted to resolve the matter, it seems the Border Force had little option but to advise the owner that they would have to remove the crew and return them to their home countries,' he explained. 'This would have meant that a replacement crew from outside of the EU would not be allowed in to the UK and in all likelihood an application would have been made to the Admiralty Marshall for judicial sale of the vessel to settle all outstanding debts and costs incurred.
'This was a real concern for the crew. If removed by Border Force, they would have "Deported" stamped on their passports. This would have catastrophic consequences for their future careers as seafarers. We have worked with all concerned to try to avoid this outcome. If the shipowner finally delivers on its obligations, then it will have been worthwhile. We are not counting any chickens yet but we have to be hopeful that this will bring the matter to a successful conclusion.'
The contracts for most of the crew identified wages so low that we had no alternative but to claim minimum rates under international law