Turkish owned ship has been stuck in Malta
Barbecued spaghetti had become daily fare for the 16 crew members of a Turkish-owned ship as food provisions ran out aboard the vessel that has been stuck in Malta for three weeks on court orders.
?Our situation became critical on March 20 when provisions practically finished. We had no fuel for electricity supply so we had to cook on deck, on the barbeque and ended up eating barbequed spaghetti for breakfast and dinner,? Vladimir Motsalov, captain of the Maltese-registered MV Nicea, said.
Since then, he added, Malta Transport had helped by providing supplies that included some food, water and electricity.
On Friday, the bank in Holland, that had initiated court procedures to keep the boat in Malta due to unpaid debt, committed itself to supply three weeks of provisions.
Capt. Motsalov said he and his men remained in limbo. ?We have no idea how long we"ll be here and what will happen to the ship, or to us. We want to know, get our salaries and be repatriated,? the Estonian captain said in broken English.
The MV Nicea, a cargo ship, was travelling from Gibraltar to Istanbul to pick up a load of trucks when it stopped in Malta for refuelling on March 5. Once in Malta the ship was issued with a warrant of arrest because its Turkish owners, Erwina Shipping Ltd, owed money to a bank in Holland. The arrest warrant was issued by the Maltese courts on the request of the bank and, since then, the 6,894-tonne ship had been berthed at Parlatorio Wharf.
Three weeks down the line the crew ? seven Bulgarians, seven Turks, a Georgian and the Estonian captain ? still do not know when they will be able to head home. In the meantime, they have no choice but to stay aboard the ship. They need a visa to disembark and if they do, they will be automatically relinquishing their right to get paid, a maritime lawyer explained.
Apart from that, the captain said, it would be dangerous to leave the cargo ship unattended since it required a trained crew to handle such a vessel. It is still not clear whether the ship still belongs to the Turkish company or has been seized by the bank.
?The bank stopped the vessel without realising it is not a stone. It is living and there are expenses such as the crew"s food and salaries... When the bank stopped the vessel it did not realise the problems it caused... We are a crew, lost, to the mercy of God,? Capt. Motsalov said.
In a desperate plea for attention and help earlier this week, the crew wrote messages for help on bed sheets and hung them over the side of the vessel. The main message was: ?Help us. No food or electricity. Where is the ITF (International Transport Workers Federation)??
On Wednesday, the federation said it had been contacted on March 19 and it was doing its utmost to get the crew members paid and repatriated. ITF said in such situations banks often requisitioned the boats but in this case the ship was ?small and old?, so discussions were still ongoing to reach a conclusion. Capt. Motsalov said the situation had destroyed the finances of the company.
He had been informed unofficially that the offices in Turkey had closed down and employees were let go but had not heard from the owners. Once the bank had frozen the vessel in this situation, he added, the crew was calling on the bank to pay their salaries. Some crew members still had to be paid for six months worth of work and he had provided the bank with a breakdown of what was owed.
To add to their ?limbo?, he added, the crew was struggling to contact their loved ones since the phone onboard had been disconnected. Some have been at sea for up to six months and were yearning to speak to their families back home. ?We have to rely on our personal mobiles. But with little credit and no salary it is very expensive and unaffordable to make overseas calls,? one crew member said. Some had laptops but could not connect to the internet since they did not have access to the port"s wireless password.
?I just want to get paid and go home,? said the youngest crew member, aged 20, who had not heard from his family in a month.