86 Pakistani crew on four ships in danger

The Pakistani seafarers are on four vessels namely Aeon, Sol, Lua and Ariana owned by the Saint James Shipping Limited

Lives of at least 86 Pakistani seafarers are in danger on four Saint James Shipping-owned vessels over the owner’s refusal to pay wages, causing danger to their lives and safety as the ships are without any insurance cover and guarantee.

The Pakistani seafarers are on four vessels namely Aeon, Sol, Lua and Ariana owned by the Saint James Shipping Limited and managed by Global Radiance Ship Management (GRSM) and financed by US based Entrust. All four vessels have no insurance cover and their crew have not been paid for over almost four months, according to available evidence, says a legal source who is involved in preparation of a legal case for the UK High Court.

The four vessels are lacking basic supplies for humanitarian needs and spares to keep the vessels safe for crew and ship in sea-worthy condition. Singapore based Manager GRSM has been footing the bill and providing for the vessels for the last year, with assurances from the Saint James management — CEO Sam Tari Verdi and Managing Director Panagiotos Postatziz (Agis) — that those payments will be made.

It’s understood that ship managers at the GRSM group have contacted Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to apprise them of the situation around 23 Pakistani members who are on ship Ariana in the port of Al Mokha, Yemen, which is declared as a war zone area. The Pakistani crew members are suffering and living with uncertainty and without basic necessities and without the required insurance because the ship owner failed to fulfil his legal obligations towards the crew members and maintain the vessel safe and sea-worthy.

The legal source shared that this vessel was towed to the port due to engine problems. The Pakistani crew members, according to the source, were forced to disembark in Al Mokha despite knowing that the vessel was in a war zone and it would be unsafe for the crew to disembark in a war zone. The source shared that the condition of the crew was extremely bad, which the vessel owner purposely did to the extent that they did not provide water and food for the crew so they should agree to leave the ship in an unsafe situation. The insurance of the same vessel, covered by the American Club, has been cancelled months ago and everyone is exposed in case of any incident and accident.

The source said: “Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has approached various maritime security agencies and navies present in the area to inform them about the plight of Pakistani nationals. However, so far there has been no practical progress and in total 86 Pakistani nationals onboard the four ships are living in unsafe conditions and under high risk. They need international help for their safe repatriation.” The crisis for the Pakistani crew members started around early January after the owner seized funding to the ship management company.

Two of the vessels Aeon and Sol are presently arrested in India since 6th June, 2022 by vendors due to long overdue outstanding payments of owners. Aeon is arrested in Mumbai and Sol is also arrested in Hazira. Both vessels have Pakistani crew having almost four months unpaid wages.

The legal source shared that the vessel communication system has been disconnected for almost a month due to unpaid invoices by the owner. The source said: “Basically the owner has abandoned both vessels and is not fulfilling any obligations as the rightful vessel owner. Lenders Entrust want to repossess these vessels for processing Judicial Sale but the owner is not cooperating with the lenders and in this dispute between the ships’ owner and lenders, innocent crew are suffering.”

The Lua vessel is in Shipyard Las Calderas, Santo Domingo, for the last five months and was in Damen Shipyard in Curacao before where she stayed for four months but due to unavailability of funds from owner she was asked to leave Curacao Shipyard without carrying out any docking/repair job, shared the source.

A fifth vessel Victor 1 is arrested by crew due to unpaid wages and also by the vendor for unpaid long outstanding invoices by the owner Saint James. The total crew on this ship are 17, including 13 Indonesian and four Pakistanis.

Replying to questions sent to Saint James Shipping CEO Sam Tari Verdi, a spokesman said that “excellent quality provisions” have been provided to all of them “even in very difficult locations”.

“There is no Pakistani crew at any war zone and for the ones who are in India we have asked for their immediate repatriation from the agents. If you are in contact with the crew directly please ask them to send us their final salary amount and we will immediately arrange the payments and repatriate them.” The spokesman said: “We are the victims of deliberate third-party arrests and we have prioritised the well-being of our crew above everything in this difficult situation.”

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