A Newspaper in Mumbai, Mumbai Mirror reported that the four members onboard have been living on the Columbia bound ship ever since the vessel developed a snag.
The Mirror also added that the crew who lived on very little food and no medicine was rescued last week and sent back home to Ghana per a court order.
The crew, made up of Mohammad Mustapha, 38, Issah Sawudu, 49, Iddriss Mohammad, 48, and Abakah Francis, 60 were said to have received no help from their employers.
The ship, Magnum V according to the Mirror is owned by a company based in Sierra Leone. One of the crew, Mohammad Mustapha told the newspaper that “we did not abandon the ship because that’s what we have been taught. In return of this loyalty, we were left to die.”
Meanwhile, officials of Ghana’s Embassy in India were tight-lipped on the matter when citifmonline.com contacted them.
Below is the full report by the Mumbai newspaper:
The seafarers survived on a stranded ship without electricity, and very little food, for nearly six years.
They were finally rescued on Wednesday and sent back to Ghana after an HC order. After surviving on a ship stranded just two nautical miles off Mumbai for the last five-anda-half years, its four-member crew was finally rescued on Wednesday afternoon, and sent back home to Ghana in West Africa in the early hours of Thursday.
Since 2011, when their ship Magnum V developed a snag while on its way to Colombo and remained within the touching distance of the Mumbai shore off Ballard Pier, the four seafarers — Mohammad Mustapha, 38, Issah Sawudu, 49, Iddriss Mohammad, 48, and Abakah Francis, 60 — received no help from their employers, and lived on very little food and no medicines. The ship is owned by a company based in Sierra Leone.
Last month, the four men filed a suit in the Bombay High Court, and at 2 pm Wednesday, a speedboat brought them ashore, after which they were driven straight to the airport for a late night flight back home.
The rescue operation was facilitated by the National Union of Seafarers of India, and headed by Luis Gomes, an International Transport Federation inspector.
The seafarers told Mumbai Mirror that what pained them the most was not the difficulties that they faced in these five-and-a-half years, but the neglect by their employers.
“We did not abandon the ship because that’s what we have been taught. In return of this loyalty, we were left to die,” said Mohammad Mustapha, who was the Third Officer on the ship.
“There was no electricity on board and we have been surviving with meagre provision supply. There was no fresh water supply and we used the sea water for toilet and laundry purposes,” Mustafa said. He said that Abakah Francis’s passport expired in September last year, while Iddriss Mohammad’s passport has a validity of just three more months.
“We would dry chicken in the sun for at least a month as there was no refrigerator. There were no medicines as well,” Mustapha added.
In their suit filed through advocate Abhishek Khare of Khare Legal Chambers, the four men have sought sale of the ship to recover their dues, citing “maritime lien” on the vessel.
They pointed to the “precarious living conditions” in their suit, and said three of them haven’t been paid since December 2013, while one wasn’t paid since January 2012. Their cumulative claim is more than $2.37 lakh, the suit said. The men compared their ordeal to being imprisoned, and said that they weren’t able to contact their families for months after being stranded. “I have to explain to my family that I hadn’t abandoned them.
They think seafarers have a good time but that’s not the case,” Issah Sawudu said. The ordeal has affected their families as well. While Mustapha and Iddriss have two children each, Issah has three kids, and Abakah has four children.
“The lives of our families have been affected. The children have been thrown out the school and the families have been evicted because we couldn’t send money back home,” Mustapha said.
The first sign of relief arrived on May 6, when Justice SJ Kathawalla passed an arrest order for the ship. But the crew faced another challenge on June 4, when gusty winds and waves moved the ship by over one nautical mile towards the shore.
Since then it has been stuck in shallow waters. Some amount of sea water entered the vessel as it had developed holes.
The court, after having apprised of this situation, observed that selling the vessel seemed to be the only solution. Senior Advocate Rahul Narichania, appointed as amicus curiae (friend of court), pointed out the danger because of the strategic location in case the ship capsized.