Indian sailors fly home after being stranded in UAE for three years

The tanker, owned by Alco Shipping Services, has been entangled in disputes since 2015.

Three Indian sailors, who had been stranded on separate ships for over three years, were finally able to fly home, the diplomatic mission of India in Dubai announced on Twitter on Tuesday.

Sailors Zubair Khan (on board AB1), Harender (on board MV Ocean Grace) and Mohammed Shakeel (on board MT Dharma) have been living in their vessels since 2015. After months of suffering without timely pay, the three men had been repatriated to their respective cities in India.

The tanker, owned by Alco Shipping Services, has been entangled in disputes since 2015, and since 2016, nearly 40 sailors are being repatriated gradually.

Tired of hearing false promises of salary payments and sign-off, the crew members had sought the help of the Consulate-General of India (CGI) in Dubai through social worker Girish Pant.

With little money and limited provisions, the men would heavily depend on supplies from the consulate, which provided them with fresh water, bunker fuel and food, among others.

Speaking to Khaleej Times ahead of their departure, the men said they had lost all hope and could hardly believe that they were on their way back home.

Shakeel, who is on his way to Patna, Bihar, said: “I was on board MT Dharma since February 10, 2016. Since I joined, I have received only four months’ salary.”

No medical supplies

“A few months after I joined, I got haemorrhoids. I was not given any medication to treat the condition. I got medicines from the other crew members. We have been going from door to door asking for help. But no one helped us,” he added. 

Shakeel has an outstanding due of Dh176,000 salary, however, he has only been paid Dh10,000.

“The remaining amount was given as a cheque that has been issued in my relative’s name. I do hope it gets cleared. I have four kids. They are aged 17, 15, 7, and 3 years. They haven’t gone to school for over a year. My wife is not working. I am very happy to be going back home, but there is much more to do now, including paying my debts,” Shakeel added. 

Another repatriated sailor, Khan, said: “The salary they owe me is much more. But I’ve been given Dh10,000 and a UAE cheque for later next year. I am hopeful I will get paid. The last couple of months were very bad, and we underwent severe distress.” 

The men are now looking forward to restarting their lives with their families.

The third sailor, Harender said: “I am very grateful that this has finally happened.”

Last man standing

The other crew members on board AB1 and MV Ocean Grace, Harender and Zubair, departed for India on Tuesday night. One last man, however, was left on a ship.

Ashwani Kumar Kataria, captain of MT Dharma, said: “I am the last man standing on board this vessel. I took this job 42 months ago, on August 3, 2015. My salary has been pending for 28 months, amounting to Dh230,000.”

“It is obvious that they do not care about our families. The supplies are supposed to arrive once in every 15 days, but they come only once in 20 days. We need to always beg for food and other supplies. It is very humiliating,” he added.

Kataria said he would like to leave the vessel as soon as possible.

Girish Pant, a social worker commissioned by the CGI to take care of the stranded seafarers, said: “As a social worker, I request local authorities to crack down on companies that fail to pay their sailors. Food, water, and essential supplies must also be regularly provided to the men.”

Alco Shipping could not be reached for comments.

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