The owner of a Maldivian ship detained in the Indian Port City of Kochi for the last five months has told the crew they must sell the vessel or they be stranded in India “forever”.
Crew members aboard the MV Morning Star have been left stranded in the country after the ship they were towing from the Maldives – MV Sea Angel – sank in Indian waters.
Following the sinking of the vessel, the Indian Environmental Authority launched a probe into the incident and detained the MV Morning Star, local media reported.
According to the Transport Authority, the crew have also gone without pay for the last five months and are relying on a local union in India to provide them with food.
MV Morning Star’s owner, Managing Director of Mallinks Pvt Ltd Ibrahim Rasheed, told Minivan News that the crew and captain of the MV Morning Star would not be allowed to sail out of the port until the sunken vessel is salvaged, in accordance to a ruling by the Indian Judiciary.
“There is nothing I can do now. It is up to the insurance company to salvage the sunken ship, but they are saying they will not do that. I don’t have the money to do it myself, I am not the World Bank.
“I have told the captain to sell the ship as it is the only option now. With the money they can pay the crew salary and return to the Maldives. If they don’t they will be stuck in India for 3 years or five years or forever because I cannot afford to pay their return,” Rasheed said.
Despite Rasheed’s proposal, Transport Authority Chairman Abdul Rasheed Nafiz claimed that to “simply sell the ship” was not an easy procedure as there are regulations that have to be adhered to with Indian and Maldivian maritime authorities.
“This is a very sad story for the crew. I have spoken to their families and they are relying on them [the crew] to provide money for children’s books, rent and bills. However, [the crew] have not received any payment,” Nafiz told Minivan News.
“[The Transport Authority] are working with our legal team to determine what type of action can be taken against the owners of the ship. These people are blaming the insurance company, then the insurance company are blaming the owners; it goes around in a circle.
Both of the vessels owned by Mallinks Pvt Ltd are insured by Allied Insurance, according to Rasheed.
Under the insurance policy, Rasheed claimed that Allied Insurance was required to salvage the sunken vessel, and that it was their failure to do so that has kept the crew unpaid in India for so long.
“We had fully insured both ships. The insurance company gave us a wage policy and in the policy they have written, ‘within 40 days we have to sail the vessels’, which we did.
“The insurance company needs to take responsibility, but they are saying no, so I will file a case at court,” Rasheed alleged.
MV Morning Star had been towing MV Sea Angel to a port in India for it to be scrapped, however just eight miles from Kochi, the 26 metre vessel began to sink.
According the ship’s captain, Hussain Ali, the crew were becoming “more and more depressed” with the situation and are yet to receive any help from the Maldivian government.
Rasheed said he had paid the crew two out of the five months they had been in India, claiming that he did not have the money to pay the full amount.
He further claimed it had been Ali’s fault that the MV Sea Angel had sunk, and that Indian courts had declared the sinking was due to Ali acting with “negligence” and “harassment of navigation”.
“At the end of all of this, this is my loss. my ship will be lost because of the captain. It was his fault the MV Sea Angel sank,” Rasheed claimed.
“The captain has already filed a case against me with the International Transport Workers Federation,” Rasheed added.