x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Abandoned sailors flown home

A crew that was stranded aboard an oil tanker for months has been freed.

DUBAI // Two dozen crewmen of an oil tanker that has been stranded in Dubai waters for several months - and left for weeks without drinking water or power - have been flown to their home countries.

The Filipino and South Koreans aboard the MV Samho Dream had been unpaid after the company that owns the South Korean vessel, Samho Shipping, went bankrupt in April. The sailors also lacked the papers to enter UAE territory.

Stuck on board and unable to refrigerate or cook food, some men had begun to lose weight and experience dizziness. About a week ago, their internet and satellite phone had been cut off, limiting their communications to nearby ships via radio, Capt Abdullah Al Hayyas, a representative from the Dubai Maritime City Authority (DMCA), said. Capt Al Hayyas had led an inspection of the vessel.

After seeing the "harsh conditions" on the ship, the authorities arranged the paperwork for the crew to come ashore and arranged medical attention for those suffering illness.

"We had to act swiftly for them to be brought ashore and cared for," said Khalid Meftah, the DMCA director of maritime corporate development.

The government body, which oversees the maritime sector, worked with the police, international authorities and private firms to take care of the crew, Mr Meftah said.

Dubai experiences at least a dozen cases a year of shipowners running out of money and leaving their vessels and crews stranded without pay, said the Rev Stephen Miller, until recently the head of the Dubai branch of the international NGO Mission to Seafarers. He worked on the MV Samho Dream and had worked on similar cases in the emirate for 10 years before transferring to Hong Kong last month.

The recession has hurt international shipping, he said.

"Obviously after the downturn of 2008-2009, there were many companies on the border, and they were the ones that went under."

Samho Shipping suffered a serious financial hit last November as they reportedly paid a record US$9million (Dh33m) ransom to free the MV Samho Dream from Somali pirates last November.

It had been held for six months.

Just two months later, in January this year, pirates hijacked another one of its vessels, the MV Samho Jewelry, a 20,000-tonne tanker carrying chemicals. South Korean naval forces were deployed to rescue this ship and all 21 crew members were freed, though the captain suffered a gunshot wound. Five pirates were also captured and face trial in South Korea.

Two other ships owned by the firm are also stranded in Dubai waters, the Samho Crown crude oil tanker and the Samho Jasper, a chemical tanker.

chuang@thenational.ae