Photo: Hans Fairhust
The ship was en route from Myanmar to Ivory Coast, carrying a cargo consisting of bulk-packed rice, when authorities diverted it to Cape Town and subsequently arrested it. The Indonesia-based Meranti Bahari PT company, which owns the vessel, had experienced some financial issues and was not able to make the necessary payments to service providers. The Singapore-based Aquarius Maritime PTE Limited shipping agent and a UAE service provider thus demanded for the ship to be arrested.
It was reported that Aquarius had been failing to oblige the agreed upon payment towards the crew members for several months. The seafarers aboard the vessel had signed on in November of last year.
There have been numerous reports that salaries for the month of December had arrived late as well as the ones appointed for January, and this was also the last payment given out to the crew. The seafarers had run out of water to wash their clothes etc. one month ago, their drinking water was determined to be unhygienic and there wasn’t enough water for them to flush the toilets. The garbage aboard the vessel was two months old. The crew members were able to contract the International Transport Federations (ITF), but due to the captain not letting Cassiem Augustus, who is ITF’s local man, on board, he was forced to go to court with renowned Rose Street Attorneys’ maritime lawyer Alan Goldberg for him to get an order and later determined that the conditions aboard the vessel were extremely bad.
In the current situation the only possible way for the crew members to go home is for them to rent a boat that would take them to harbor, and from there on organize and pay for some means of transport back to India. Due to the fact, however, that none of them have received payment in months, this scenario is more than unlikely to occur. The Agatis is not able to enter the vicinity of the harbor because there isn’t anyone to take responsibility for the necessary fees. During the duration of the legal processes, the only thing the crew can do is sit patiently and wait.