- Seafarers on an abandoned bulk carrier are onto the 3rd week of hunger strike.
- Seafarers are demanding immediate release and pending wages of $400,000 USD
- Some of them already hospitalised due to low blood pressure and blood sugar issues
- The ship is flagless at present as the flag state cancelled registration in 2020
- Shipowner along with the shipping company has been blacklisted since 2017
Seafarers stuck on a ship stranded in Kuwait are fasting to their death seeking immediate release.
The Indian, Turkish, Azerbaijani and Bangladeshi crew of the abandoned bulk carrier Ula are onto their third week of hunger strike this week. The seafarers stuck at Shuaiba port in Kuwait are on a hunger strike from January 7. They are seeking immediate release and their duly owed wages of more than $400,000 USD.
The protesting crew are at a dire state with 6 of them already hospitalised due to a severe fall in their blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Their lives remain at risk as they are refusing to intake food and water.
ITF Calls for Urgent Action
Such is the condition that even the International Transport Workers’ Federation, ITF has also expressed concern and has asked Kuwait to act urgently.
“The Kuwaiti authorities must act urgently to save these seafarers from killing themselves through this hunger strike. While it was the Qatari shipowner and the Flag State of Palau who let these seafarers down, we call on Kuwait to show leadership in resolving this crisis,” said Mohamed Arrachedi, ITF’s Arab World and Iran Network Coordinator
“Most of the crew have been on board for 14 months – and some have now spent over two years on board. These seafarers are simply asking Kuwait to replace them with local crew, so that they can go home to their families.”
Ship Crew Abandoned for 11 Months
The Qatari shipowner has abandoned the ship’s crew in Kuwait for the last 11months and since then their fate is tangling by a thread. The ship is owned by Aswan Trading and Contracting has been blacklisted since 2017.
The unresolved abandonment and job losses has led to the seafarers’ hunger strike. They are demanding wages for the sake of supporting their families and hence can’t go empty-handed.
“My mother, father, sister and younger brother depend on me to support them since my father lost his job due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” one seafarer told the ITF. “So now I am the only one with a job, but I’ve had no salary for 11 months. We took out a loan, but we can’t pay it back.”
Some seafarers even said that they haven’t got their salary for 20 months.
Ship Remains Flagless
Generally the flag state is responsible for ensuring the life and safety of the crew of the abandoned ship. This also includes tackling wage issues. However Palau hasn’t done anything in this case.
“Palau has failed to do its job,” argues Arrachedi. “The ITF repeatedly raised the lack of provisions and wages owing, but no action has been taken.”
Currently the vessel is flagless or stateless as Palau terminated it’s registration in 2020.
“Since the ship is now flagless, it is left up to the Kuwaiti maritime authorities to resolve the situation. Kuwait has a legal and moral responsibility to save these seafarers while there is still time. As always, the ITF is on standby to assist in any way we can,” said Arrachedi.