Crew abandoned on indebted company’s LPG carrier

LPG carrier Celanova. Credit: IHS Markit

Fifteen crew members were abandoned on Celanova, a 7,496 dwt liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) carrier, by indebted Spanish tanker owner Globalgas off Manila, the Philippines. Their ordeal started on 7 December 2019, after the tanker, built in 2003, broke down and lost its rudder off the Philippine coast.

Celanova was towed to Manila on 17 December 2019. The ship was anchored there and thereafter, the crew, mostly comprising of Spaniards and South Americans, contacted the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), claiming they had not been paid.

Celanova was detained after a port state control (PSC) inspection, which took place on 14 February 2020, over unpaid wages. On 7 March, the ship had to transfer its butadiene cargo to another vessel when it began running out of bunker fuel.

The crew, many of whom have been on the vessel since August 2019, are now having to eat whatever food is left over, with the shipowner failing to supply food and pay their wages.

Further exacerbating the seafarers’ plight, Spanish mortgage bank Abanca is reportedly stopping Globalgas’ attempts to sell the LPG vessel to help pay off the company’s debts.

The ITF is urgently requesting authorities in the Philippines to allow Celanova into port to facilitate assistance from the flag state and the American Club, the vessel’s insurers.

Local authorities have agreed, but only on condition a tug is provided alongside the tanker and on standby while Celanova is moored.

Luz Baz, co-ordinator at ITF’s office in Spain, said that the tanker has run out of power and is in a total blackout. The crew have been sleeping on the deck as there is no air conditioning, but storms on 10 May forced the seafarers to take shelter in the dark below deck.

“I’ve worked over 14 years as an ITF inspector, I have dealt with many abandoned vessels so far and this is the first time someone has asked the crew to pay tug hire,” said Baz. “The ship needs to be in port. The crew can’t start the engine. Something has to be done. The crew are desperate. They need fuel, fresh water, provisions, medication, safety parts.”