UAE, Abu Dhabi. Credit:Olaf Schmidt
The crew of the MV Sharjah Moon have spoken out about being left stranded in UAE waters since July last year.
On 9 May 2017, the crew of the MV Sharjah Moon docked without permission in to Hamriyah Port to contact the Indian Consulate in Dubai about dangerous conditions on board. Some of the crew have been denied salaries for more than 16 months and have been sending requests to sign off weekly for more than six months.
Onboard are six Indian Nationals and one Sri Lankan National, who have been repeatedly denied access to fresh food and water or contact with their families. Health problems onboard and belated news of family deaths has damaged the psychological health of the crew and resulted in several potential suicide attempts.
In an investigative report and case study from independent advocacy group Human Right at Sea, released 9 June, the crew have spoken out about the situation and the conditions of the ship.
Chief engineer and Sri Lankan national on board Sharjah Moon, said that owners Alco Shipping Company ignored his request for compassionate leave when his father passed away in March 2017 and his daughter was taken ill. Due to receiving no pay since August 2016, he explained that his “house and land which is under mortgage has been given final notice”.
David Hammond, chief executive of Human Rights at Sea, said, “We hope our case study will raise awareness of the case and keep the issue alive,” Hammond told Safety at Sea. “Often these issues seem to be swept under the carpet but we want to make it public and go deeper to look at the effect it has on seafarers. “
Justice Upheld, a British registered charity and human rights NGO founded by lawyer Jas Uppal, was contacted by the best friend of Sharjah Moon’s Captain Prakash in June. Uppal then registered the crew’s case with India’s Ministry of External Affairs and the Sri Lankan authorities. Captain Prakash later confirmed to Uppal that the Indian minister for external affairs Sushma Swaraj visited the vessel and was told “our issue will soon be resolved”.
However, Uppal told Safety at Sea she is sceptical the Indian government will resolve the case speedily or be able to force the ship owner to comply over payment.
According to Uppal, the ship owner, who is Pakistani in origin, is alleged to have said to the crew that the situation is revenge for India carrying out “surgical strikes” on militants in late September across the de-facto border in disputed Kashmir.
“It’s as if the crew are all dispensable. They shouldn’t be treated like this for what has been happening between the states,” said Uppal. “The UAE is complicit and should be questioning why this is going on and investigating it as a human rights violation.”
In May 2016 the shipowner, a Pakistani national that controls the Sharjah-based Alco Shipping Company, changed Sharjah Moon’s flag from the UAE to Zanzibar.
Gulf News reported that crew on another three Alco-owned ships are suffering similar conditions.
The Indian Consul General in Dubia, the ship’s owner and the company did not respond to a request for comment from Safety at Sea at the time of writing.