Bahrain stranded sailors set to return home
Manama, December 23, 2012
Eight Indian sailors who have been stranded onboard an oil tanker in Bahrain for five months will finally go home, but they will miss Christmas with their families.
They were among 34 sailors, who claim they have not been paid since July by Mumbai-based Pratibha Shipping Company, which owes millions of dollars to two local companies, our sister newspaper, the Gulf Daily News reported.
Oil tanker Pratibha Koyna is currently docked in Hidd and the ordeal for eight of the men will soon end after their employer gave them the all-clear to return. It is understood they could leave the country next week.
The Indian Embassy has been following up the case with the Directorate-General of Shipping in Mumbai and the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) to ensure the rest of the sailors are safely returned to India.
"We have managed to get the required clearance for eight sailors based on our contact with their employer in Mumbai," said GFBTU board member Salman Saad, who visited the oil tanker with other members to meet the crew.
"They would have left earlier but because of the extended weekends including the National Day, the process got delayed.”
"These sailors are stranded at sea for more than five months now and are mentally exhausted. Some of them are fed up and want to return home and we want to ensure the process goes on smoothly.”
"The ship communication device is also not working making it difficult for them to interact within the network."
Saad said the GFBTU was also helping the men in co-operation with the Bahrain International Seafarers' Society, which is supplying the crew with essential supplies, including food.
Meanwhile, an embassy official said the local companies have planned to file a legal case against the tanker's owner for unsettled dues which amounts to millions of dollars.
He said they have been trying to contact the company's chief executive Sunil Pawar to ensure the sailors leave Bahrain safely, but there has been no response.
"We are in constant touch with the ship captain and have also asked our higher authorities to authorise us to provide them with food and conduct the repatriation process," he added.
According to reports in the Indian media, Pawar has been detained in Chennai over allegations he was responsible for the death of six sailors. It comes as Indian authorities filed a case against officials at the shipping company for negligence after it abandoned oil tanker MT Pratibha Cauvery off Elliot's Beach in Chennai during Cyclone Nilam on October 31, which resulted in the death of six sailors.
Several petitions were filed by family members of the deceased sailors and other surviving crew members in the Madras High Court, which was informed by company officials that the ship - worth around $6 million - would be sold to pay for the compensation. The company's website states it has major clients globally and has about 400 officers/crew members who work on rotation and contractual basis on its ships. – TradeArabia News Service