A long-running shipping wrangle which has left 12 seamen stranded on a ship in a Norfolk port for six months could be set to come to an end.
The India-owned Malaviya Twenty has been detained in Great Yarmouth docks since it arrived in June.
The crew has not been paid and port fees and running costs have seen debts soar to more than £300,000.
Now a transport union has stepped in to take charge of the vessel and will sell it in order to settle the arrears.
Under Border Force restrictions, the men are not allowed to leave Great Yarmouth until the issue is resolved.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) impounded the Malaviya Twenty when it discovered the crew was not receiving wages and port fees had not been paid.
The vessel’s owners, GOL Offshore, had pushed to delay payments until February.
The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) applied to the Admiralty Court in London to effectively arrest the ship and sell it, using the money raised to pay and repatriate the crew and settle its debts.
The owner of Great Yarmouth docks, Peel Ports, has also been unable to grant the ship permission to leave because of a debt of around £30,000 in unpaid fees.
Paul Keenan, an inspector with the ITF, visited the stricken vessel on Thursday and said the crew were coping well but were “mentally fatigued”.
“One of the main concerns for us is that 80% of these men’s wages go back to their families in India to pay rent and food,” he said.
“Living for months without wages can make life very difficult indeed.”
Great Yarmouth’s port chaplain, the Reverend Peter Paine, paid tribute to local efforts to provide food and help to the crew, describing the response to an appeal as “absolutely fantastic”.
Three month process
The situation mirrors that of the Malaviya Twenty’s sister ship – the Malaviya Seven – which currently languishes in Aberdeen harbour for the same reason.
Mr Keenan confirmed the ITF will now seek potential buyers for the Malaviya Twenty, a process that could take up to three months.
He said he was hopeful the crew will be paid and heading home by the middle of January.
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