HRAS: Crew of Tanker Gulf Sky Caught in a Case of Political Intrigue
The saga of the crew aboard the tanker Gulf Sky continues according to the NGO Human Rights at Sea and the Commonwealth of Dominica Maritime Administration. According to a statement issued by the two organizations, the crew’s situation remains unresolved leaving them unpaid and unable to work due to the disputes, investigations and political intrigue surrounding the tanker.
According to HRAS, the 28 Indian seafarers that were aboard the tanker continue to find themselves in limbo 14 weeks after their vessel was reportedly hijacked while anchored off Port Khor Fakkan Anchorage, UAE. In the statement issued by the NGO and the flag state authority, they say that the crew’s wages remain unpaid since March 2020 totaling in excess of $197,000, while the crew’s Continuous Discharge Certificates (CDCs) are still retained by UAE authorities, pending an ongoing investigation. Fines in excess of $5 million have also been reportedly levied against the owners and managers of the vessel by the flag administration.
“The Commonwealth of Dominica Maritime Administration’s Office of Maritime Affairs and Marine Personnel has been working diligently with both the United Arab Emirates Directorate of Maritime Transport Sector and The Federal Transport Authority and the Directorate General of Shipping in India to conclude the facts as we know them,” reports Eric R. Dawicki, President and CEO of Commonwealth of Dominica Maritime Registry. “Once the Directorate General of Shipping in India submits its finding to the Tri-lateral Investigation Team Headed up by the Commonwealth of Dominica, we shall issue a statement of facts and a plan for legal actions against the perpetrators of one of the most brazen crimes on the high seas in the 21st Century.”
As previously reported by Human Rights at Sea and the Commonwealth of Dominica Maritime Administration, the complex commercial and geo-political case of the MT Gulf Sky continues to be under investigation at the State level as to the background to and circumstances of the events leading up to the ship’s disappearance from UAE waters to offshore Hormuz Island, Iran in July.
Human Rights at Sea and the flag Administration have been jointly engaged seeking to work with insurance association, the ship owners, vessel managers, the India-based crewing agency, unions, and the maritime and government authorities in India to resolve the crew’s situation. While the case remains under investigation the seafarers have not been able to work according to HRAS.
“It is undeniably frustrating to continually fail to be able to provide the crew with any credible news relating to when their outstanding wages will be paid and when their CDCs will be returned,” said David Hammond, CEO, Human Rights at Sea. “These fundamental issues affecting livelihoods.”
Last year, the 1998-built Gulf Sky (then sailing under the name Nautic) became entangled in a legal dispute involving American sanctions on Iran and charges of attempted money laundering involving a transaction to purchase the vessel brought by the U.S. Department of Justice. The vessel remained under arrest as part of a civil forfeiture complaint by her former owners.
In July, the vessel suddenly and without warning disappeared from the UAE anchorage only to turn up in Iran with the master reporting they had been kidnapped. The crew was held for two weeks before being let go and returning to India. Human Rights at Sea and the Dominica Flag State Administration contended that the crew was being used as pawns in the incident, which became a geopolitical issue. According to the captain’s personal account, this was not the case of a daring escape to freedom by unpaid crew during the COVID-19 crisis.
The lives and livelihood of the seafarers remain entangled with the mysteries of the Gulf Sky.