Five crew members of the ice breaker Polar Star have arrived home after being abandoned in the Canary Islands, according to ITF Seafarers.
The Russian and Lithuanian seafarers were part of a crew which joined the ship during May and June in Las Palmas, Spain. They had been employed to start repair works and then after three weeks sail the vessel to Klaipeda, Lithuania, to complete the operations.
Instead, they were caught in a conflict between the Astican shipyard and the Chinati Management Corporation, a London-based investment group which is buying the ship from its Canadian owner, 3264741 Nova Scotia Limited.
Repairs stopped because necessary parts failed to materialise, the crew’s access to food and other supplies was restricted, they were unable to leave the ship and access to the vessel was limited. The men turned to the ITF inspector in Las Palmas, Gonzalo Galan, for help. Galan negotiated food supplies and access to the vessel.
Despite several assurances that the men would receive their July wages given by Chinati Management Corporation, nothing materialised and some crew members decided to give up and pay for themselves to go home. Five were determined to remain on board while the ITF negotiated with the owner on their behalf. On August 24, the owner agreed to repatriate them and on August 29 the seafarers finally flew home.
“The Cornwallis Financial Corporation, which represents 3264741 Nova Scotia Limited, have promised our inspector in Halifax, Canada that they will not complete the sale of the vessel until the crew is fully paid. We will keep working on that,” Galan said.
The Polar Star was used for Polar expeditions and was abandoned at the Astican Shipyard in Las Palmas with unpaid repair bills reaching USD 1.6 million in 2011.
Seafarers across the globe face various challenges when they venture out to sea. There are many reports about crews being abandoned and repatriated months, or even years later, with the help of charity organizations or International Transport Federation (ITF), almost on a daily basis.
Data from the International Labor Convention (ILO) shows there are over 80 crew abandonment cases, with over 50 being disputed, some dating back to even 2004. In addition, around 140 cases have been deemed as “resolved”.