'Cargo ship with 16 Indians stranded off Dubai for a year'

'Cargo ship with 16 Indians stranded off Dubai for a year'

Sixteen Indian crew members of a cargo ship have been stranded for almost a year aboard an empty vessel anchored off a port here as they do not have visas and the ship's documents have also expired, according to a media report.

The ship 'Maharishi Devatreya' has been anchored 12 miles from Rashid Port here.

Aninda Sengupta, who joined the ship as a captain in November 2013, said the vessel has been in anchorage since July 2013 when it arrived from New Mangalore Port, the Gulf News reported.

The ship belongs to Varun Shipping company.

"When I joined, they told me that the ship would move to the Dubai dry docks in December 2013 and start trading normally," Sengupta told the newspaper.

However, there has been no progress since then. The previous captain left the ship in November 2013, when Sengupta joined.

"We are prisoners on the ship as we cannot leave it because we do not have visas to land in the country and we cannot go back to India because the ship's certificates expired on December 29, 2013 and I am not authorised to move the ship. If I do and something happens I'll be held responsible," he was quoted as saying.

"The owner has not paid us in seven months and he refuses to do anything. He just sends us food and water every two months so we can survive and every time we talk to him he says next week or next month and nothing happens," he said.

The crew have been in contact with the Dubai Maritime City Authority (DMCA), who have helped them pressure the company to fix their air-conditioner when it broke down in May.

The ship, which is fitted to transport Liquid Pressurised Gas (LPG), is worth around USD 20 million, he said.

Sengupta said that the crew's mental health is deteriorating as some have been on the ship for almost a year.

Meanwhile, the shipping company said yesterday that the 16 crew members on the ship will return home soon.

Yudhishthir Khatau, Chairman and Managing Director of Varun Shipping Company Limited, told Gulf News that the ship is expected to enter the Dubai World Drydocks in mid-July.Khatau said the company is working to resolve the matter.

"Maharishi Devatreya is safely anchored within the port limits of Port Rashid....The crew will be relieved on the vessel entering the drydock around mid-July 2014," he said.

Responding to non-payment of salary claims by the captain of the Maharishi Devatreya, Khatau contended that "the company has paid around USD 10 million towards all crew salaries across its fleet in the last six months as per our agreed schedule with stakeholders and regulators".

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