A port chaplain in Mombasa, Kenya, has spoken about how the crew of a fishing vessel were not paid their wages, denied shore leave and had to endure poor living conditions on board ever since their ship was detained at the port more than two years ago.
The Taiwanese-owned ship, MV Lean Fong Tsai, first arrived at Mombasa with an Indonesian crew in December 2014. It was detained by Kenya Maritime Authority when port state control officers found the ship to be unseaworthy.
Repairs were still not done by 2015, so the crew were repatriated and a new crew comprising 11 Filipinos, and a Taiwanese engineer and master, were subsequently brought in to take over without the authorities’ knowledge, said George Sunguh from the seafarers’ charity Apostleship of the Sea (AoS).
“The captain repeatedly told the men ‘we will sail next month’, but it never happened. The crew were only provided with rice and chicken, with no vegetables and fruit, and limited drinking water,” said George who is the AoS Coordinator in Mombasa, adding that living conditions on board were dismal.
George added, “The ship owner decided to repatriate the crew without the authorities’ knowledge but one of the seafarers was able to contact police overseas. It was at this point that AoS and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) intervened to assist the men.”
While they were stranded, AoS provided pastoral and practical support to the seafarers; listening to their concerns and helping them keep in contact their families back home. AoS also supported their faith needs by organising Holy Mass for them at the seafarers’ centre in Mombasa, following requests by the crew. The Mass was said by Rev Fr. Willybard Lagho, the AoS Chaplain and the Vicar General of the Catholic Archdiocese of Mombasa.
The ship owner is currently in Mombasa and arrangements have been made for them to be repatriated. Negotiations are also being held to ensure the crew receive their wages.
AoS has also contacted its network of port chaplains based in the Philippines so that the Filipino crew can continue to be supported when they return home.