The Indonesian government faces allegations of unlawfully detaining three Indian seafarers from a stranded ship. These seafarers have been placed under house arrest to pressure the ship operator to secure compensation for the vessel’s removal.
The ship in question, the “MT AASHI,” with a deadweight tonnage of 5000 dwt, encountered severe weather conditions on February 10th while transporting 1900 tons of asphalt from Dubai to Indonesia. Upon realizing that the ship was taking on water due to a hull breach, the crew sought permission from Indonesian authorities to anchor the vessel near the Nias Islands. Subsequently, all 20 crew members abandoned the ship. The asphalt on the ship polluted the surrounding area around it, which was cleaned by Indonesian authorities.
However, the ship continued to take in water, leading to its tilt and eventual submersion of approximately 80%. On February 24th, 17 crew members were repatriated, while the remaining three individuals, namely Captain Sanjeev Kumar, Chief Engineer Sanjay Kumar Pandey, and Chief Officer Siyab Salam, were asked to stay behind for an investigation.
Following this, the passports of these three crew members were confiscated, and Indonesian authorities, including local police, the coast guard, and port authorities, took all investigative documents. Although the investigation found several deficiencies on the ship and stated that the ship was not seaworthy when it sailed, it also revealed that none of the detained individuals were responsible for any environmental damage resulting from the ship’s grounding.
The Indonesian government, however, has continued to hold these men under house arrest in a hotel on Nias Island for the past seven months. The ship’s operator, Aashi Shipping, based in Liberia, has declared the vessel a total loss. A virtual meeting held on June 4th regarding the release of the crew members was not attended by the owner or the technical manager of the vessel.
The Indian embassy in Jakarta is urging Indonesian authorities to resolve the matter and release the seafarers, emphasizing that the salvage and cleanup of the sunken vessel are unrelated to the actions of these seafarers.