In an unprecedented move for Human Rights at Sea (HRAS), the seafarer charity has partnered with Flag State, the Commonwealth of Dominica Maritime Administration (Dominica Registry), to help seafarers stuck on a vessel off Khor Fakkan, United Arab Emirates, HRAS announced on 22 June.
“The partnership with the Dominica Registry has been the result of our continuous and reciprocal engagement with the Flag State over the case of the Gulf Sky which was highlighted to HRAS by the master of the crew who appealed to our charity for help,” Elizabeth Mavropoulou, programme manager HRAS, told SAS.
“This partnership is the first to my knowledge between a Flag State and a civil society organisation to work as a collective for the benefit of seafarers and both the Dominica Registry and our organisation hope this is only the beginning. We aim to work over the long term to support seafarers,” commented Mavropoulou. “The seafarers are effectively in a quasi-forced labour situation, stranded on board the ship with no immediate solution to their plight, international pressure from organisations with power and reach can contribute to the speedy and effective resolution of the case”.
The 28 crew onboard the Dominica flagged crude oil tanker, Gulf Sky, appealed to HRAS in May 2020 to raise awareness of the living conditions onboard and delayed payment of wages. In a letter addressed to the companies’ Designated Person Ashore, serious concerns were raised over inadequate supplies of fresh water, food, fuel, medical supplies, and personal protective equipment. Crew also had to share bunks and fears of an engine blackout were stressed in the letter.
HRAS investigated the matter and the ship manager, United Islands Maritime Ventures, subsequently provided provisions to the vessel between March and May 2020. However, the issue of wages is still outstanding, with the management company citing the impact of COVID-19 disruptions on the banking sector to be the cause of the additional delay.
The Flag state referred the case to mediation, yet the ship managers have failed to resolve the case, pay the outstanding wages of the crew, and sign the seafarers off the vessel. Many of the crew members have been onboard since October 2019 and been impacted by the travel restrictions imposed by COVID-19 as 22 are Indian nationals.
HRAS will work together with the Flag state to apply additional pressure to the company to solve the outstanding issues and provide assistance to the seafarers involved.
“The Flag State was from the very beginning very supportive of our involvement with the case, being transparent with actions taken and taking a clear position on the side of the crew. As a result we joined forces to resolve this particular case so seafarers have their salaries paid and repatriate as soon as possible,” said Mavropoulou to SAS.