SeafarerHelp is a free, confidential, multilingual helpline for seafarers and their families, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. When seafarers are being treated badly and forced to work and live in substandard conditions on board, the SeafarerHelp team can provide support and assistance.
SeafarerHelp was contacted by a Filipino seafarer in Sudan who complained that the crew on board his ship was not being provided with proper meals; in addition, there were a number of other problems on board. He said that the cook did not want to provide food for the Filipinos on board and had given the responsibility to the mess boy, but the subsequent quality of the food was poor. The master had also ordered for the galley to be closed after the evening meal, which meant those on the midnight to early morning watch often missed breakfast. When the deck officer requested for the galley to be kept open so he and his crew mates could prepare their own breakfasts, he said the master shouted at him and refused. In addition, there was no running water and hygiene in the galley was not up to standard. The crew asked for immediate repatriation due to stress, the conditions on board and the lack of proper food.
With the seafarer’s consent, SeafarerHelp notified the ITF Seafarers Support team in London and referred the case to the Philippines Consulate in Sudan in order to try and sort out the problems the crew were facing and get them repatriated. The SeafarerHelp team kept in constant contact with the crew, who were refusing to work or obey orders due to the discrimination they were experiencing on board and the general living conditions. To add to their stress, the ship was arrested due to debts that had not been paid. While all this was going on, the aunt of one of the seafarers passed away and the SeafarerHelp team provided emotional support to him. The team also supported the seafarers when they raised concerns about documents they had been asked to sign, which were provided by a law firm hired by their manning agency.
Three months later, the crew of 15 was still on board in Sudan and the situation was getting worse. There was very little diesel for the generators and most of the time the ship was in darkness. There was no refrigeration or air conditioning and life on board was extremely unpleasant. The crew had been told a couple of times that they were going to be repatriated but it had not happened. They complained that they had been abandoned by the owner in very poor conditions and were desperate to go home. The SeafarerHelp team continued to support the crew while ISWAN’s representative in the Philippines took the case up with the Government Department in the Philippines.
The seafarers were eventually repatriated four months after their first contact with SeafarerHelp. The crew were grateful for the SeafarerHelp team’s assistance and one said: ‘Thank you teamhelp, I will never forget everything you did…I am so proud to know you…walang katapusang pasasalamat [infinite gratitude]’.
If you are a seafarer or family member of a seafarer and need assistance with repatriation or poor conditions on board, you can speak to a member of the SeafarerHelp team confidentially – all our contact details can be found at seafarerhelp.org.