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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - Rev Andy Bowerman with Vikash Mishra after the sailors for clearance.- Supplied photo
The men were abandoned onboard MV Tamim Aldar shipping tanker.
Four sailors, who were stranded off the coast of the UAE, will see their families for the first time in nearly three years this Christmas.
The men were abandoned onboard MV Tamim Aldar shipping tanker, a vessel owned by the disputed shipping company Elite Way Marine Services. As the company hit severe financial difficulties, a total of 43 sailors onboard nine vessels were left stranded in various ports and anchorage for months and years.
After their sign-off, the company also agreed to give the sailors 80 per cent of their outstanding dues, which comes as a huge relief for the seafarers. The men have been granted their visas, and are expected to leave the UAE in two to three days. Out of the 43 stranded sailors, a total of 31 were Indians, according to Vipul, Consul General of India to Dubai.
Stuck in anchorage
The four sailors onboard MV Tamim Aldar are the final lot of seafarers working with Elite Way to be signed-off. The sailors are - Indian seafarers Vikash Mishra, and Asaph Lobo and Eritrean crewmen Welday Mehari and Captain Tesfamikiel Keflemariam, the ship's captain. The men were stuck onboard and in anchorage 25 nautical miles away from the coast of UAE since March 2017. The vessel was brought ashore on August 8 this year.
The men were rescued thanks to intervention from the Federal Transport Authority (FTA), Consulate General of India in Dubai, and Mission to Seafarers, a social group that provides offers emergency assistance to stranded seafarers.
'My daughter does not even know who I am'
Vikash Mishra, a second engineer with MV Tamim Aldar who has been onboard the vessel for 39 months, said. "I have been in the shipping industry since 2005. This is the first time I am facing such a problem. The issues began in August 2017." Vikash, originally from the state of Uttar Pradesh in India, is a father to two kids - a nine-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl.
The four sailors suffered a harrowing ordeal, especially in the last six months before their rescue. "My daughter was eight-month-old when I left India. She is four now. She does not even know who I am," he said. Besides, Mishra lost a whopping 20kg due to the ordeal. "I was 83kg when I joined the vessel. Today, I weigh 63kg," he said.
His wife Vinita Mishra told Al Khaleej Today, "I don't care about the money. I just want him to come back home. I haven't met him in three years. I am happy and thrilled he is coming back now." While in anchorage, communication with family was almost impossible, and he could connect to her only through WhatsApp messages.
"From January to August this year, the vessel was in a blackout, and there were no supplies. The company would give us 15 days supplies that were expected to last 45 days," said Lobo, an engineer who was stranded onboard 32 months. For Lobo, this is the second time he is facing abandonment from his employers. Once the company abandoned them, the Consulate provided them with supplies.
'Glad the ordeal is over'
Indian Consul General Vipul said the Consulate is glad the long ordeal is coming to an end. "Out of the total 31 Indian sailors of the company, 29 have returned. The Consulate has provided the men with food, water, and medicines and other supplies. We want to thank FTA for their cooperation" said Vipul.
Rev Andy Bowerman, regional director, Middle East and South Asia, The Mission to Seafarers said: "A few of Elite Way Marine's vessels were refurbished, and two were sold. One was sold as scrap, and the other was sold off the market. With this money, the company was able to settle dues of all the stranded sailors," said Bowerman.
He added that the biggest challenge for the sailors would be readjusting to their new home environments. "They need a lot of support and training, especially to check if they can go back to the sea again," said Bowerman. There are a total of 64 registered complaints from stranded seafarers in the UAE. However, the situation for seafarers has undoubtedly been improving over the past few, said Bowerman.
Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for 10 years. She has a keen interest in writing about issues that plague the common person, and will never turn down a human interest story. She completed her Bachelor in Arts in Journalism, Economics, and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves travelling, and Audible is her favourite mobile application. Tweet at her @wordjunkie88
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