The Master of the Panama-flagged MV Ali Bey has provided a voluntary video testimony to Human Rights at Sea, explaining the privations that he and three Syrian crew members suffer since their vessel was arrested and abandoned by its owner in Constanza Port, Romania, in November 2020 with earned wages owed before that date stated as totalling USD $175,000.
amely, Syrian national, Captain Abdullah Dahha and his Syrian crew have been tied up alongside the port without pay.
In addition, they have been left without money, proper food, periodic power supplies and a lack of potable water. As of now, they have been relying on the generosity and charity of local welfare persons and entities.
The owner is also reported to have threatened the Master, crew, and local ITF inspector with legal action to prevent payment of their wages under their contracted terms, though it is reported to HRAS that he has disappeared with no response to phone calls, and only letters being variously sent to crew, the court, and the inspector.
The remaining crew onboard, and those who have already departed and signed-off with less than 100% wages owed, did manage to secure four months wages from the American P&I club under the terms of the MLC 2006.
What is more, according to Panama, the crews on board were going to be repatriated but their payment will remain hold. In addition, in June 4 2021, HRAS received confirmation from the ITF inspector, that the wages owned had been paid and that they were awaiting the repatriation of the crew.
However, ITF has disputed the statement of the Panamanian authorities and confirmed to HRAS that the ITF inspector did not inform Panama that the “wages owned has been paid”.
Now, the Panama Maritime Authority (PMA) acknowledged a misquotation of the ITF inspector, resulting in corrections and amendments to the ILO database.
Had the misquote not been spotted the four Syrian seafarers abandoned onboard for eight months would have been further disadvantaged more than they already are
Namely, HRAS highlighted to ITF the public statement and its concern about the associated disadvantage of the remaining Syrian seafarers. This led to an immediate written response from ITF to the ILO on 17 July to correct the facts.
PMA also wrote to HRAS late evening 16 July 21 highlighting their mistake, acknowledging responsibility, and that they “apologize for any inconveniences”. The data based has now been updated and states:
I can confirm that owner done a lot of abuses against the crew in order to negotiate their rights less than they owed, P&I confirmed this abandonment according with MLC 2006 and paid compensation according with the convention, part of crew got some part of their wages and after many abuses. Now, on board there are 4 seafarers unpaid from many months, owner owes them about 175.000 USD and in this conditions, owner take court action against master, against me as the person who declared to the flag, P&I and to ILO, IMO that crew are in area of abandonment according with MLC 2006, Standard 2.5.2 , and claimed huge amount of money. More than this, governmental organization, PSC answer to you that they arrest the vessel because crew not been paid from 6 months but they have no official documents that vessel is abandoned
Furthermore, HRAS notes that the exploitation of the four-man Syrian crew has not been helped by the mistake recorded on the ILO database.
As reported to both ITF and HRAS, the alleged threats by the owner towards the crew and the position of crew subjugation are thereby reinforced by a lack of accuracy in case reporting be it mistaken, or negligent
HRAS identifies three key lessons from this incident.
- Responsibility for accurate reporting: It is critical for all cases of abandoned seafarers that submissions to the ILO Abandonment Database are double-checked and accurate in support of achieving expedited justice for victims.
- Accountability for mistakes: All mistakes must be acknowledged and amendments actioned immediately. Apologies for distress to any victims must also be made, without exception.
- Flag State responsibility: Flag States must always take a direct interest and be engaged in every case of abandonment onboard all vessels registered with the flag administration reflecting established international maritime law. There is no room for any abdication of responsibility.
HRAS has also requested engagement with the PMA on the following points and awaits a response.
- “We would like to know what the Panamanian flag State authorities are doing to assist this remaining four-man Syrian crew under your flag and established jurisdictional protection under international maritime law?”
- “Have you offered financial and/or legal support to the seafarers and their families? If so, what does this comprise, and how much?”
- “Have you been officially and legally liaising with the Romanian Government and relevant PSC authorities to protect these seafarers’ rights? If so, what is the current situation?”
The issue of inaccurate reporting in abandonment cases may seem a small matter from the confines of an office environment, but for seafarers who have been forced to remain onboard vessels beyond their contracts, without receipt of the pay they have fairly earned, and without access to their families, the issue is all consuming. It is therefore imperative that all public information in such cases is double-checked, accurate, and all mistakes rectified immediately with due apologies to the victims
HRAS comments, recognising however the immediate response, acknowledgement, and the correction by the Panama Maritime Authority.