International seafarers’ charity Stella Maris is calling attention to the plight of 16 abandoned crewmembers aboard a fishing vessel that has been stuck in Kenya’s Mombasa port since March – the latest incident in a wave of abandonment cases at the bottom end of the maritime industry.
Last week, the crew ran out of all food except for some old vegetables because the vessel owners stopped providing them with supplies, Stella Maris reported. The crewmembers say that they are owed wages for the last eight months, and they are increasingly worried about family members who are struggling to survive because of the loss of income.
The Kenyan-flagged vessel, Ra-Horakhty, is crewed by Indonesian, Korean and Vietnamese nationals. At first there were Kenyans and Tanzanians on board, but they have since been repatriated and paid their salaries.
Stella Maris has stepped in to provide emergency relief for the remaining men, supplying a week’s worth of groceries, including oil, meat and rice. The seafarers are also in need of fresh water and diesel to run the ship’s generator.
“We were informed of the crew’s dire situation by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) inspector based here, so went to visit the vessel to assess the situation and see how best we could help. We invited the local Mission to Seafarers team to assist in our response,” said Stella Maris Mombasa port chaplain Margaret Masibo. “We had a long conversation with the captain of the ship, who said he and his crew were distressed, frustrated, hungry and exhausted.
Stella Maris understands that the men all signed one-year contracts, in excess of MLC limits. The contracts of six Indonesian fishermen expired five months ago but they are still on board. They are unable to leave the port area because their documents are no longer valid. The crew, led by the captain, has begun to pursue legal action.
“The situation is becoming increasingly hopeless, and no one knows how long a court case will take, but Stella Maris will keep looking out for the crew’s wellbeing and monitoring the situation,” said Margaret.
This case illustrates a wider problem of seafarer and fisher abandonment, Stella Maris said. According to the ILO Abandonment of Seafarers database, 57 ships have been reported abandoned since the start of 2021. The ITF and seafarers’ organizations are often the first responders in these cases, advocating for the victims and providing them with supplies when low-end shipowners skip out
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