ISWAN’s Regional Programme provides humanitarian support to seafarers and their families in South East Asia, South Asia and Nigeria.
In February this year, a vessel was arrested by the Indonesian Navy when it dropped its anchor in Indonesian territorial waters. Local authorities detained the ship and took its crew’s documents for not having permission to anchor there. The vessel was taken to a remote anchorage and the authorities would not allow anyone on board to leave.
Three months passed with no improvement in the situation. The crew were anxious – some of them had already completed their contracts and others were close to finishing. In April, an officer on board the vessel called Vihaan* received the tragic news that his father had passed away. It is hard to imagine how Vihaan must have felt – this news, combined with the struggle of the past three months, completely shattered him. His fellow crew members managed to calm him down and an immediate request was sent to various authorities, including the owner and shipping company, requesting Vihaan’s immediate sign-off. However, he was unable to obtain the local authority’s approval and so could not be with his family during this sad time.
This was not Vihaan’s only concern. His wife was pregnant and due to give birth in the first week of June, so he desperately wanted to go home to take care of her. However, the situation did not change and the vessel remained in detention.
In May, Vihaan wrote to ISWAN’s helpline, SeafarerHelp, to explain his ordeal and ask for help in organising his sign-off as soon as possible. Realising the gravity of the situation, the SeafarerHelp team forwarded Vihaan’s case to ISWAN’s Regional Director in South Asia, Chirag Bahri. Chirag immediately contacted agencies including the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in Delhi, the Indian Embassy in Indonesia, and company officials in Singapore to bring Vihaan’s situation to their attention. Chirag also organised for a Merchant Navy welfare association based in Mangalore to visit Vihaan’s home and offer support to his family. The organisation in turn coordinated with the local doctor to ensure the best medical attention was provided to the seafarer’s wife and assured that it would cover all costs involved in the delivery of the child.
The MEA and Indian Embassy’s intervention brought results – Vihaan’s release was approved by the local authorities and he was able to return home to his wife and newborn baby. He wrote to ISWAN on his return to say thank you for all the support he had received during this incredibly difficult time.
ISWAN would like to extend its gratitude to the Indian MEA, the Indian Embassy in Indonesia, the shipping company and the Merchant Navy welfare association in Mangalore for all their support and intervention in this case.
If you are a seafarer or family member of a seafarer and need assistance or support, you can contact our free, confidential, 24-hour helpline, SeafarerHelp, at any time – all our contact details can be found at seafarerhelp.org. We will refer you to a member of our Regional Team if there is someone in your region who can help. Make a note of our details or save them on your phone in case you ever need our help or support.
*This seafarer’s name has been changed to protect their privacy.