There are 11,086 kilometres between São Sebastião, Brazil and the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv. It’s those eleven thousand kilometres ITF Inspector Renialdo de Freitas has been working to get 16 Ukrainian seafarers back across, to their homes and families. With their wages.
The seafarers are the crew of a Panamanian-flagged vessel, the Srakane. The ship has been laid up in the São Sebastião Channel for more than three weeks. The seafarers want to go home – but they also want their employer to pay their outstanding wages before they leave the vessel. They are owed collectively over USD180,000.
The ship came to Brazil from Morocco in early June, calling into a number of ports before anchoring in São Sebastião. The crew refused to go any further until they receive their wages, which haven’t been paid in at least seven months. The captain has gone four months, and one crew member has not been paid for almost a year.
During the challenging economic times of Covid-19, it was more important than ever that crew from labour-providing nations like Ukraine to be paid in order to send back wages to their loved ones at home, said Nataliya Yefrimenko, ITF Inspector based in Ukraine.
“Seafarers like those aboard the Srakane have left their families and homes for months at sea with the promise by their employers that they would be paid regularly and repatriated when their contracts finished. Now it is clear that their employer is breaking their obligations, and that will be having a large impact on families back home who rely on those wages. There is no welfare state to fall back on – families need these incomes,” said Yefrimenko.
With the Panamanian-flagged ship’s owner unable to pay the wages owed to the crew or cover the cost of repatriation, the situation was deteriorating for life on board the ship in the São Sebastião Channel. A Brazilian news outlet reported.
With the tense atmosphere on board, workers also complain about the ship’s captain, a Croatian national, of constantly threatening them not to report.
There was criticism of the lack of supplies on board, as the ship was at anchor for almost a month at the port of Salvador in Bahia, awaiting instructions to proceed to the next destination.
A request for help from a crew member (Chief Officer) was made to the Brazilian authorities claiming to have been attacked by the ship’s captain. Subsequently, the crew made another cry for help, this time claiming that the supply of water and food would be running out.