Patna: Even as the search is on for the missing India seafarer of Maersk Honam ship, 19 other sailors have sought help of the Indian government after they were allegedly held captive by UAE authorities.
Captain Vikas Raj and 18 other crew members of cargo vessel MV SHAKER contacted News18 on WhatsApp and shared their ordeal.
“Our passports have been confiscated and we are running out of money. We have nothing to eat now. Our families back in India recharge our mobile phones, which is the only medium to be in contact with. We have written to the Indian embassy here but nothing has happened so far,” Raj said.
The crew departed onboard MV SHAKER, owned by Transworld Ship Management LLC, from Mumbai Port in October and reached at Dubai Port in December, where they were detained along with this ship.
The captain and nine among the crew are on the payroll of Rassiya Shipping Services Private Limited, with their registered office in Mumbai. The agency works as a managing agent for shipping companies.
Nitesh Srivastav, Director of Rassiya Shipping, told News18 that the vessel was seized and the seafarers were detained as the company, which was supposed to receive the cargo, owed huge amount of dues against port servicing charge.
“Dubai-based company Bunker Suppliers defaulted on its dues and authorities seized the vessel. However, they held captive the crew members also. We along with ship owners are in constant touch but the matter is now subjudice in a UAE court,” he said.
Captain Raj’s wife, Sindhu, told News18 in Patna that all their efforts to bring back her husband went in vain.
“I have been tweeting to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj but have not got any response. I appeal Indian authorities to rescue my husband and others as they have nothing to do with the matter related to the Dubai based company,” she said.
Sindhu further said that the mother of one of the crew members died on Tuesday, but they chose not to inform him about the tragedy. Another crew member’s wedding was planned for March 4, which had to be cancelled.
Maritime expert Vineet Kumar said that in such cases crew members should be released and the government should intervene. “UAE authorities can’t hold the crew members hostage. They are not even the employee of the defaulter company. This is against maritime norms,” he said.