ISWAN’s Regional Programme provides humanitarian support to seafarers and their families in South East Asia, South Asia and Nigeria. Between September 2017 and May 2019, at least 31 Indian seafarers were reported as abandoned on various vessels in the UAE. In June 2019, two Indian seafarers, Mayur and Aniket, finally returned home after spending 22 months stranded on their ship. Mayur, who features in our recent video: ‘Unregistered crewing agencies: A risk to Indian seafarers’, spoke to ISWAN’s regional representative in India afterwards about his experience.
Mayur and Aniket’s company had stopped paying the crew’s wages and their supplies of basic necessities like food, water and fuel came to a standstill. Mayur described how they had to use firewood to cook their food and drink rusty boiled water, but their situation worsened when they ran out of food supplies on the ship. He said that the last four to five months on board were critical for survival – the crew was at the mercy of passing vessels and supporting agencies who provided food, water and temporary supplies of electricity, which enabled the seafarers to charge their phones and keep in contact with their families and the authorities.
Mayur, Aniket and the other crew members on board were also suffering from the fierce heat of the Gulf and spent most of their time out on deck where temperatures weren’t as hot. They all felt very low being away from their families for so long, and they had no idea how long it would be before they could go home. Their families were suffering financially without the seafarers’ income.
Mayur thanked ISWAN for extending financial support to the seafarers through the Seafarers Emergency Fund and thanked all the organisations, including ISWAN, which worked together to secure the seafarers’ release in June 2019 after 22 long months on board. You can watch his message to ISWAN here. Mayur had joined the ship through a non-registered crewing agency, but he vowed to only use agencies with a Recruitment and Placement Services Licence (RPSL) from the Directorate General of Shipping (a full list of registered agencies can be found here). He advised other seafarers to make sure they look into the history and record of any shipping company before joining.
If you are a seafarer and are concerned about being abandoned, you can find guidance in the Abandonment section of the SeafarerHelp website. Alternatively, you can speak to a member of the SeafarerHelp team for guidance or support at any time – all our contact details can be found at seafarerhelp.org.