- 10 seafarers of the vessel MV Tomini Destiny allege harassment from owners.
- They were forced to offload cargo at Chittagong, Bangladesh by the owner.
- Concerns over the lack of measures in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 was ignored.
- The seafarers are currently under quarantine after SOP.
- The stevedores did not wear masks, gloves, and even did not have a health screening.
- The owners refuted the allegations and alleged the captain deviated from the route.
According to an article published in Times of India, 10 seafarers of the vessel MV Tomini Destiny alleged that the shipowner ignored their safety concerns and forced them to carry out the discharge of cargo without proper health and safety precautions.
Harrassed and intimidated
The seafarers disembarked at Cochin Port on Thursday after an overdue of their sailing contract for more than two months due to the lockdown. They said despite writing to the DG Shipping India and ministry of external affairs, the crew faced harassment and intimidation by the owners and charterers.
The ship’s master Rajnish Samuel Shah said they were forced to offload cargo at Chittagong, Bangladesh by the owner and charterer despite expressing concerns over the lack of measures in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 onboard and even threatened of termination otherwise. Meanwhile, the company refuted all the allegations and said they took extra pain to divert the ship to Kochi so that Shah and nine others could get relieved.
Seafarers under quarantine
Shah and all other nine members of his team are currently under quarantine in a city hotel here after completing the medical tests in accordance with the Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) post disembarkation.
Shah said the ship reached Chittagong port on March 30 with a bulk cargo of Soyabean as scheduled but the authorities did not keep the promise of arranging cranes to unload cargo instead of manual offloading by stevedores, which involved direct contact with the crew.
Denied safety kit and essentials
“More than 50 stevedores have boarded the ship and conducted the cargo discharge for nearly 14 days. The stevedores did not wear masks, gloves, and even did not have health screening. Moreover, the crew was not provided sufficient masks (given only surgical masks instead of N-95 masks) and sanitizers. The crew was fatigued and stressed to carry out their shipboard responsibilities, and they wanted to go home as they were overdue of their contract by up to one year, but the ship owners did not pay heed to our woes despite multiple intimations. When we decided to stop cargo discharge considering the health concerns, the company’s CEO even threatened us of termination,” Shah said.
Owners delayed the crew change and violated rules
Shah said the owners delayed the crew change and asked the crew, who already had been working beyond their contract period, to continue sail to Durban, which violated maritime labor convention, 2006, and seafarers employment agreements. Shah said he had to initiate the disembarkation procedures on his own by approaching the Indian government directly.
Allegations refuted by owners
Meanwhile, the allegations made by the master and crew were refuted by the company saying that extensive arrangements for all possible means of safe operation were in place. In reply to TOI’s queries, CEO Nitin Mehta said there were adequate supplies of PPE kits onboard and the port authorities in Chittagong were screening all stevedore prior to boarding.
“At no time the crew was threatened with termination. Tomini was duty-bound to deliver cargo and the Master stopped the cargo discharge without regard for any legal or contractual obligations. The captain had deviated to the Port of Chennai instead of Galle for a crew change without the owner’s consent putting the safety of the crew and vessel at risk, jeopardizing the insurance coverage for both the crew and the vessel. Tomini had tried to arrange a crew change at any convenient port either in Sri Lanka or India amid lockdown. When DG Shipping gave permission we arranged a crew change at Kochi,” Mehta said.
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