Ten seafarers from the Ra-Horakthy fishing vessel, abandoned in Mombasa, Kenya for the past nine months, face a bleak Christmas as efforts to seek legal redress and repatriation have been delayed.
A court hearing originally scheduled for 23rd October, has been postponed three times. The case is now due to be heard on 22nd December, making it unlikely that the men will be reunited with their families any time soon.
The crew’s disappointment is further compounded by financial worries, as they have not been able to support their struggling families since March 2021 when their employer stopped paying their wages.
The vessel’s captain, Seo Hyundo, has expressed his frustration over the decision to further postpone the ruling, saying that this is pushing the psychological capacity of the crew to the limits.
Global maritime charity Stella Maris is working alongside The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and other local partners to support the seafarers.
The Kenyan-flagged fishing vessel was abandoned by its owner with more than 16 crew members on board in March. They consisted of Kenyans, Tanzanians, Koreans, Indonesians and Vietnamese.
The Kenyans and Tanzanians have been repatriated and their salaries paid, and on 15th December, the six Indonesian seafarers finally flew home with the help of the Indonesian Embassy.
In September, Stella Maris stepped in to provide emergency support to the crew after the ship’s owner stopped providing food and fresh water. The charity was informed of the crew’s dire situation by the ITF.
Stella Maris Kenya, with the help of the Archbishop of Mombasa, Rev. Martin Kivuva Musonde, bought groceries, including oil, meat, rice, and drinking water. The charity’s team in Mombasa also provided pastoral support, visiting the crew who had become increasingly stressed, worried, desperate, and exhausted.
Stella Maris continues to provide the men with food, drinking water, and emotional support, but fears are growing about their welfare and that of their families.
“We are concerned with how long the court case will take, and the financial struggle and psychological strain on the crew and their families,” said Margaret Masibo, Director of Stella Maris Mombasa Kenya.
“It is very distressing that the remaining ten seafarers will spend Christmas away from their families. The delicate humanitarian situation that the seafarers are in should rightfully prompt the fast tracking of the case to a just and quick conclusion,” she said, adding that Stella Maris will keep looking out for the crew’s wellbeing and monitoring the situation until the case concludes and their ordeal ends.
This case illustrates a wider problem of seafarer and fisher abandonment, as highlighted by the number of reported cases on the International Labour Organization Abandonment of Seafarers database.
Stella Maris is the largest ship-visiting network in the world and is often the first responder in such cases. Operating out of more than 300 ports in over 50 countries, the charity intervenes in crisis situations by providing timely practical and pastoral support, expert information, and advocacy.