Commercial Dispute Leaves Bulker's Crew Stranded off Iran

Image courtesy HRAS

Published Apr 15, 2021 2:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

19 crewmembers have been stranded aboard the Tanzanian-flagged bulker Aizdihar off the coast of Bandar Abbas, Iran for months, and they are rapidly running out of food, water and fuel, according to Human Rights at Sea.

The seafarers told HRAS that they are desperate for relief. The crew is said to include 10 Indian, two Syrian, five Bangladeshi and two Pakistani nationals. 

On February 27, the vessel's master reported to the ILO that a payment dispute between a local Iranain shipping agency and the shipowner is effectively keeping the crew hostage, with serious effects on morale. "[Iranian agency Sea Ocean Queen Shipping] took our passports, seamen books and vessel’s certificates . . .  He is creating hurdles in everything, such as for supplying fresh water, diesel and provisions," wrote the Aizdihar's master. "By cheating, deceiving, he is claiming huge unnecessary charges from the owner . . . Agent is not considering us as human beings and because of this act, he is trying to blackmail the owner for high refund. Crew has to do nothing with this dispute."

Fourth engineer Sahil Singh has been onboard since March 7, 2020. He told HRAS that the owner has not paid his salary and that the crew have repeatedly asked for sign-off, but with no success. “We’re living here miserable lives,” he said.

The crew have contacted national authorities, as well as the ILO, ITF and ISWAN. They have been in contact with the owner and the local agent, but have not managed to reach a resolution to the situation. 

As of March 5, the ITF reported that the shipowner had repatriated 12 crewmembers and paid back wages totaling about $200,000. "The remaining crew report a lack of food, water, provisions and inhumane living conditions. These crew are owed 11 months wages," ITF reported. 

The supply of diesel has reportedly run so low that the generator can only be used for two hours per day, according to Singh. As the crew’s identity and seaman’s documents are being held by the shipping agent, the remaining seafarers cannot readily disembark the vessel and return to their home countries.