DUBAI // In a desperate bid to leave the UAE, the 18-strong crew of a Vietnamese ship - stuck in Jebel Ali because of more than Dh500,000 in unpaid port dues - have put up signs on their vessel pleading to be returned home.
The crew of the state-owned Diamond Way, who have been living on charity from local organisations, have hung signs reading "Let us go home" and "No food, no salary".
The men, some of who have not been paid for up to a year, said they did not mind leaving the UAE without pay, but need money for air fare.
"We have had no salary from March this year and some from last year," said the captain, Than Anh Duc, 38.
The ship owes more than Dh514,000 in berthing charges to Jebel Ali Port authorities.
The captain said: "Some families of the crew are very poor and their wives and children are facing many difficulties.
"The crew don't have any hope that the owner of vessel will pay their wages. Now, the crew only wishes to go home. Then they can find other jobs to save their family's lives."
The ship is owned by Vinashinlines, a subsidiary of the Vietnam National Shipping Lines. It was carrying steel pipes and had sailed to Gujarat in India and Oman before arriving in Dubai on August 3 to unload its cargo.
Mr Duc earns Dh9,180 a month but has not been paid for more than six months. Some of his crew had not received wages for a year.
Originally, there were 19 members on board but one of the men, who could afford to pay for a ticket home, left for Vietnam two months ago.
"We don't have money. I talked to the company and they say they are waiting for money from the government. They don't know when they'll receive it. The owners are trying to sell the ship but it is difficult," said the captain.
The ship's local agent said the crew could leave if the embassy offered to pay their fare.
"The vessel cannot leave until it gets port clearance but nothing can stop the crew from leaving," said a spokesman for the Dubai-based National Shipping Services.
"They can leave provided they can get tickets, transportation from the port to airport and their dues.
"Somebody has to pay for their tickets. The owner is not sending any money. The embassy has visited them and seen their situation. It is the embassy that has to help them. It is a state-owned vessel."
The vessel can leave the Jebel Ali Port only after the port dues are paid.
The Vietnamese Embassy said it had previously given the crew some money for supplies but cannot pay for their tickets - estimated to cost more than Dh1,800 each - to return to Vietnam.
"The embassy doesn't have the resources," said Tran Ngoc Thach, the ambassador.
"Unless the government says yes, we cannot put aside money for them. Since the owner is in a bad shape, they can't do anything. They have decided to leave the ship and we have told the government."
DP World, which operates the Jebel Ali Port, did not respond to queries.