news

Cargo ship crew abandoned in Ellesmere Port have been safely returned home

Appalling conditions were discovered on board the 1,596-ton Seccadi

The crew of the cargo vessel Seccadi which was detained in Ellesmere Port docks. Pic from Handy Shipping Guide(Image: UGC TCH)

A ship’s crew abandoned in Ellesmere Port have been paid and are safely home, it has emerged.

The move follows action by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) through its Liverpool inspector Tommy Molloy, the Border Force and the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

The ITF describes the abandonment of the ship, the 1,596-ton Seccadi owned by Istanbul based Voda Shipping, along with two others owned by the company in other UK ports, as ‘a culture close to modern day slavery’.

The Seccadi was said to have been moved to Ellesmere Port from Runcorn by Peel Ports after languishing there for some time.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency then detained the vessel at a lay-by berth at Manisty Wharf due to appalling conditions on board for the crew.

The Essex-based Handy Shipping Guide said some of the crew had been paid just 66p per hour until the federation intervened. Maritime interests working for seafarers were described as being ‘up in arms’ over the pay and conditions allegedly being endured by the Turkish and Indian crew aboard the vessel.

The Turkish cargo vessel Seccadi detained in Ellesmere Port(Image: UGC TCH)

Some of the Indian crew were thought to have been aboard for an entire year. Despite a claim amounting to more than £50,000 in back pay being largely settled problems still remained for those trapped on board.

Mr Molloy lodged protests with the Turkish owners and the Panama ship registry over the ‘shocking conditions’ he is said to have found with no fresh fruit, vegetables or meat on board the ship. There was a cockroach infestation in the galley.

The guide reported him as saying: “When crew are not paid for more than two months, not repatriated and do not have the basic food requirements to sustain a healthy diet, then they are considered to have been abandoned.

“The North West Port Welfare Committee and the good people of Merseyside are rallying round and have taken it upon themselves to look after the crew’s welfare.

“Fresh fruit and vegetables have been provided by the Seafarers Centre who are also ensuring they have adequate shore leave as a diversion from their plight. Others have offered cash donations to cover their basic needs.

“That they do so speaks volumes for their good hearts. That they have to in 2017 is a disgrace.”

He has now reported: “The crew, who had been paid as little as $0.85 an hour, have finally been repatriated.”

The ship owner had been informed by the Border Force that if all the issues were not resolved by the end of the defined period the vessel was allowed to remain in the UK, ‘the force would have little option but to deport the crew’.

However the force granted an extension to their leave of stay.

For the first 10 days of the detention nothing much was done, according to Mr Molloy, although the company started to pay wages on the ship.

“After much pressure the owners claimed that they would repatriate three Indian crew members,” he explained. “They provided the flight details but not the tickets. Afterwards one of these crew members told me he had paid for a ticket for an onward connecting flight to his home region from Mumbai. He lost this ticket when the ticket from the company did not turn up.

“I asked why he was paying for part of his journey home and it was then that we discovered that the crew were all required to pay for their own flights from their home countries to Istanbul and then the company would fly them from there to join a ship.

“The same applied on the way home. It was also revealed that the Indian crew members had to pay thousands of dollars to the crewing agent the company uses in India for ‘training’ and ‘certificates’ another breach of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).

“They either have to find this money in advance or are effectively tied to the company until this amount is paid back. This is a further breach of the convention.”

He added: “I have never dealt with a company so incapable of understanding what was required of them to get out of the mess they had created.”

Eventually the owners finally provided tickets but stated that three crew members could remain and would be joined by a replacement crew.

The remaining crew of three, including the captain, ‘were in a very precarious position’ but the company agreed to buy the crew’s tickets and pay owed wages. They also decided to fly the captain home at the last minute.

Voda Shipping and Peel Ports have been asked for an update.

View full mobile page