HYDERABAD: Three sea farers, including two from Andhra Pradesh and one from Uttar Pradesh, have practically been abandoned at sea. Their vessel MT Tamim, an oil tanker, is at the Sharjah anchorage and for the last 21 months, they have not been able to come to the shore. Their situation is also that they cannot come back to India as the management of the ship has not given them a ‘sign off’ to release them. Their salaries too are pending for the last 17 months. “It is scary out here. The ship also is not in good condition,” said Gorrepotu Venkatarao, chief engineer on the vessel. Kurma Rao Chintada, able seaman, of Srikakulam and Dhruva Chandra, chief officer, of Uttar Pradesh said they had been suffering in the sea.
All of them have written to the authorities about their predicament but their plight continues. “We have to sleep in the dark as not even enough diesel is being supplied to us to use lights during the nights,” Dhruva Chandra said. They have also tried to bring their plight to the note of the Prime Minister’s Officer, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, the shipping ministry and external affairs ministry. The sailors were employed by Elite Way Marine Services, Dubai. “We are given some food materials to cook and have been surviving on the bare minimum. We are stranded in the sea. What we want is that we be given a sign off and sent back to India,” Kurma Rao said. The sailors said the ship management had not been responding to their pleas citing that the matter is in the court.
Shaheen Sayyed, human rights defender at ‘Justice Upheld’ has taken up the issue with the UAE authorities and also the Indian government. “The men are not prisoners of war. They are victims stranded in the sea for no fault of theirs and should be rescued,” said Shaheen Sayyed, who is from Mira Road, Mumbai and lives in Kuwait.
In all, 14 seamen were recruited from India and other countries for the vessel and they reported at the Sharjah anchorage. As the ship was taking off for any destination, some of the seamen who had completed eight months as per the employment agreement on board got a ‘sign off’ and left. Venkatarao, Kurma Rao and Dhruva Chandra said they got five months salary and thereafter neither got their salaries – which are pending for the last 17 months – and neither are they being allowed to leave the ship and go home. There was also reportedly a fire mishap on the vessel but the sailors were able to put it out. “The fire fighting equipment is in a bad condition. We are worried about our survival,” Dhruva Chandra said.