By G Saravanan
Published in The New Indian Express, Chennai, on February 16, 2011:
CHENNAI: With the arrest of Marshall Island-flagged ship - M V Magnum Fortune - here on Tuesday over litigation, about 21 crew of the cargo vessel have joined the unlucky club of 90-odd seamen now leading a life like ‘prisoners onboard’ in the outer anchorage of the port.According to sources, about 90 seamen comprising Koreans, Burmese, Ukrainian, Filipinos, Vietnamese and Indians, who have been stranded on six cargo vessels anchored off the Port due to different litigations were leading a life as prisoners due to legal bindings to stay on their ships until change of crew.Explaining their traumatic experience of living on sea (but not able to visit land which is located very close to them), K Sreekumar, inspector with International Transport Workers’ Federation and assistant secretary of the Madras Port Trust Employees’ Union, said, “For just being a crew on those stranded ships, they were leading their life like prisoners on board and their condition is really pathetic.”
Besides the latest addition of M V Magnum Fortune into the league, the other ships - OSM Arena, Coastal Express 1, Coastal Express 2, Bien Nam and Cai Lan - have been left stranded at the outer anchorage of the Chennai Port due to financial problems and litigations.
In the worst case, about 14 crew of the OSM Arena were left stranded since February last year and luckily the vessel’s operator through local agents looked after their needs.However, 18 crew members stuck with the Vietnamese ship MV Bien Nam since August last year, were not very fortunate enough like Arena’s crew as they often face shortage of food supply. Few days ago also, they suffered such shortages and thanks to the Port management had all needed rations for 20 daysThe owners of these vessels should think about the stranded crew members, who were deprived of their family and living like prisoners at sea in an alien country, Sreekumar said.