In August the Panama-flagged towing vessel ‘Diavlos Force’ left Piraeus, Greece on a contract to transport a hull from a Romanian shipyard in the Black Sea to Norway. While on its way, the family of the ship’s crew alerted the Norwegian ITF Inspectorate that the crew on board was not paid as agreed.
The ITF’s new Inspector based in Bergen, Syver Grepstad, began working on the case. “To be able to investigate the situation we established communication directly with the crew who were from Greece, Russia, the Philippines, India, and Indonesia,” he said.
“We learned that the vessel would reach Norway in the beginning of September, after having not paid crew for a total of 6 months. Some of the crew had joined the vessel in June 2019 and would have almost 15 months onboard.”
The inspectors handling the case alerted the Norwegian Maritime Authority (Port State Control) based on the severe breach of the MLC regulations. On arrival in Norway, both ITF representatives and those from the Authority were waiting on the pier. The Port State Control detained the Diavlos Force due to outstanding wages of USD $238,036.
The following weeks were hectic for the inspectors. To secure any value in the ship, it was arrested on behalf of the crew, in case their unpaid wages needed to come from its release or sale. Meanwhile, the inspectors were trying hard to see the crew paid and repatriated to their home countries.
The Greek owner told the crew of the possibility of them going home if they dropped all wage claims, something that the crew was well-advised to reject. Even though the owner claimed that he wanted to pay the crew, the money from the recent contract from Romania to Norway never reached the crew.
“The situation of board was getting more and more desperate,” said Grepstad, “since the vessel was starting to run low on fuel and provisions.”
Once more, the owner promised to remedy the situation, but once more nothing came of it.
With 6 months of outstanding wages, a vessel running out of fuel, and no plans for repatriation; the Diavlos Force was abandoned by its owner. The ITF contacted the P&I Club responsible for insuring the vessel and were able to find a solution.
Image Credits: itfseafarers.org
Less than four weeks after reaching the Norwegian coast, the crew was finally on their way home. At the same time, four months of their wages (USD $139,475) were recovered and transferred to their bank accounts.
Back in Norway, Syver Grepstad said the inspectors will continue the process of realizing the value of the ship.
“If the owner is not able to pay the remaining claim, the vessel will be sold and the crew can expect to get more of their salaries. We will not stop fighting for them,” he said.