57 Ukrainian Seafarers Back Home

Through the joint efforts of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the Marine Transport Workers’ Trade Union of Ukraine (MTWTU), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and its diplomatic missions in various countries, as well as lawyers, seafarers’ relatives and various parties concerned, 57 Ukrainian seafarers returned back home in June and July of 2018, and among them 27 are the crew members of mv MEKONG SPIRIT and mv FREE NEPTUNE, which have been widely featured in the media.

Like an American action movie On May 25, 2017, the vessel MEKONG SPIRIT (IMO 9118513, the flag of Malta) with a crew of 17 Ukrainians on board was detained off the island of Crete (Greece) on suspicion in smuggling of military goods to countries/regions under United Nations sanctions and escorted to the NATO base.

Representation Image – Credits: Vincent de Boon

After the cargo inspection performed by the relevant Greek authorities, it was confirmed that the cargo is legal and industrial. Nevertheless, since January 2018, the seafarers were prohibited from leaving the territory of Greece, when on July 23 a court decision was issued, allowing the 12 crew members to leave the territory of Greece, subject to compulsory monthly registration at the Consulate General of Greece in Ukraine.

On July 28, 2018, the seafarers successfully returned back home. Their families met them in the airport together with the MTWTU representatives.

“It was like an American action movie when masked people climbed the ship and put us all on the deck face down”, recalls the Mekong Spirit Oiler.

The crew release was achieved through the coordinated efforts of the seafarers’ relatives, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, the Boumbouras Foundation, the ITF, the MTWTU and its Welfare Fund MORTRANS.

Another 5 Ukrainian crew members remain in Greece until the final decision on the case is taken by local justice.

32 months and 4 miles offshore

One of the loudest recent cases is the repatriation of the Ukrainian seafarers of mv FREE NEPTUNE (IMO 9146819, flag of Liberia), who had remained on board the ship in the Sultanate of Oman since the summer of 2016 in due to the shipowner’s bankruptcy and unpaid wages.

The Greek owners Free Bulkers SA declared bankruptcy and actually abandoned the bulk carrier to the mercy of fate. At that time there were 22 Ukrainian seafarers on board the FREE NEPTUNE.

“The wages were not paid, but they persuaded us that they were about to pay. Then they took the ship to Oman, and that’s it, we were caught in a mousetrap,” says the 3rd Engineer of mv FREE NEPTUNE.

The vessel’s supply and medical assistance were irregular. At the end of 2016, the Ukrainians even had to go on a hunger strike to draw attention to their problems.

Fishermen treated the seafarers with cigarettes and fish. The ITF helped to purchase food, and the Ukrainian Consul in Saudi Arabia assisted with provision supply.

In February 2017, the seven seafarers returned home. In accordance with the MLC, 2006 Convention, the repatriation was organized by the Liberia Maritime Authority, the vessel’s flag state.

In 2018, through the ITF efforts it became possible to obtain the positive court decision and the remaining crew members were authorized to legally leave the ship. After that, all the forces were directed to ensure the fastest possible repatriation of the crew. The lawyers also obtained a partial wage balance settlement for those seafarers, who signed off both now and in 2017.

Press Release: mtwtu.org.ua

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One Comment

  1. Actually no any official actions were done for the crew release through the coordinated efforts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, , the ITF, the MTWTU and its Welfare Fund MORTRANS. It was only the newspappers fuss and sel-promotion of above organisations.
    The Boumbouras Foundation paid for Lawer for 12 crewmembers and rented appartments for 5 of them.
    5 crew mambers are still in Greece, All 17 crew-members are still accused in “with intent to act jointly and by co-decision with the following co-defendants, possess and transport ammunition, explosives and explosive devices for the purpose of supplying illegal groups and associations of persons”

    Master and crew had no purposes and intensions of supplying illegal groups and associations of persons with explosives and explosive devices. Ship’s crew was engaged in transportation of cargo, including cargo IMO Class 1.1 (explosive cargo) loaded at Santander (Spain) and Izmir (Turkey) to Port Sudan, Fujairah, Indonesia and Australia according Cargo Documents. All cargo was loaded in International ports, cargo inside containers were inspected by Government Customs, sealed and provided with official Cargo Manifests ( the only cargo document required during containers transportations by International Maritime Law) and vessel receive official Customs and Port Authorities permissions to sail with this cargo(Departure Clearance). The crew intention and purpose was to provide the safe transportation of all cargo to discharging ports and provide it discharging under the responsibility of local Customs. In Cargo Manifests the receiver of cargo is mentioned, but the procedure of Customs clearance of cargo and it transportation to receiver is out crew responsibility and authority.
    The crew is only responsible for safe cargo transportation FROM CUSTOMS TO CUSTOMS.
    BB. The vessel passed SW of Ikaria during her Peaceful passage from Izmir to Port Said, but South of Island Cos she was navigated under the force of Greek Coast Guard ordered to proceed this area and escorted with Coast Guard Navy ship.
    . Cargo carried on board was lawful and there were no any violations of Greek, International Law and Conventions, and it was proved by:
    – Certificates of Greek AADE and Customs authorities that cargo was safe, legitimate and lawfully carried by the vessel in conformity with EU, UN and Greek Law

    – Certificates of Spanish state and Custom authorities, that cargo loaded in Spain – 52 containers, was safe, legitimate and lawfully carried by the vessel in conformity with EU, UN, Spanish and Greek Law

    – Certificates of Turkish state and Custom authorities, that cargo loaded in Turkey – 29 containers, was safe, legitimate and lawfully carried by the vessel in conformity with EU, UN and Turkish and Greek Law. Turkish Ministry of Internal Affairs issued the export licenses authorizing the export of this cargo from Turkey to Sudan.

    – Certificates of Sudanese state and Custom authorities, that cargo loaded in Turkey – 29 containers, was safe, legitimate and lawfully carried by the vessel in conformity with EU, UN and Sudanese and Greek Law. Also Certificates of Sudanese Government certifying that the end users/final receivers of cargo in Sudan were Sudanese legitimate State owned company, and that cargo was destined exclusively for civil purposes and in no case as a weapon. They also issued permissions for import of those goods.

    – Certificates and Port Clearance issued by Smyrni (Izmir) Harbor Master with permission to Mekong Spirit to sail from Smyrni to the port of destination with all cargo, including 81 containers safely loaded and stowed in accordance with SOLAS Convention and IMDG Code.

    – Report of experts appointed by the Investigation Judge dated November 2017 and confirmed that all cargo was not military cargo but only civil, commercial cargo, legitimate and safely carried in full accordance wit SOLAS and IMDG Code.

    – UN Security Council reply to Greek Authorities Note Verbale, that according to Resolution 1591/2005 that the sanctions are applied only for Darfur and not Port Sudan and Khartoum – discharging port and place of business of Cargo receivers.

    The stoppage of vessel and arest the crew were the violatiuon of International Convention 1982 and also Contradicted the Greek Law 2168/1993 Article 6, United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1556 /2004, 1591/2005, 1945/2010,

    If You have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact

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