VLCC Crew’s Appeal for Help Highlights Crew Abandonment 

tanker crew appeals for help highlighting abandonment
Chole V's crew is appealing for help (supplied)

Published Oct 8, 2021 1:11 PM by The Maritime Executive

The crew aboard a VLCC under arrest in Singapore sent out an international appeal for help. Their efforts to call attention to their individual plight highlight the broader issue of an increase in crew abandonment.

The Chloe V, a 320,000 dwt VLCC registered in the Marshall Islands, arrived in Singapore in late May from Ulsan, South Korea. Caught in a legal dispute between its manager Hermes Marine Management, controlled by Lebanon’s Ghandour Ghassan, and Koch Shipping, the vessel remained in Singapore. Two months later, on July 30, the Supreme Court of Singapore officially placed the vessel under arrest.

Now, more than two months later the vessel can be officially considered abandon under the IMO’s rules, but there are few mechanisms to help the crew. In an anonymous email from “the officers of VLCC Chole V,” they write that “Local Singaporean authorities like MPA, Supreme Court, Marshall Islands Flag, ITF, P&I, IMO, ILO, etc. have been informed. We have received ignorance and lack of attendance!”

The VLCC’s crew reports that their employment contracts expired months ago. They say that “vast amounts of the personnel are onboard for almost 14 months.” With the vessel detained in the Singapore anchorage, the crew has hung banners seeking to call attention to their plight from other ships in the port.

“The personnel on board of VLCC Chloe V is held against their will onboard, not being paid since July 2021,” they write in their email message. “The owners unilaterally severed their ties and stated their position that no one gets paid from their end, which is a definition of abandonment!”

While the situation sounds harsh, coincidentally a report in today’s Wall Street Journal contends that abandoned crews are on the rise. The paper writes of the situation that it, “appears to be a record number of cargo-ship castaways.”

Official numbers from the IMO say there were 85 reported cases in 2020 up from 40 the prior year. Representatives of the International Transportation Workers’ Federation, however, told the newspaper they estimate that more than 1,000 seafarers are currently abandoned. The paper says it is likely actually higher because crew members often do not report cases due to fear of impacting their careers.

As in the case of the crew aboard the Chole V, seafarers generally lack the money to pay for their own transportation home even if they can travel with the current pandemic restrictions. Further, they believe that if they leave their vessel they will lose any chance of recovering back pay. 

“Our seafarers' rights and moreover human rights are being ignored by Government institutions and various administrations that should be the enforcement pillars and defenders,” writes the crew of the Chole V. However, like many of their fellow seafarers, they sit and wait hoping for humanitarian aid or the intervention of local authorities or the flag state before the courts act ordering the sale of the ship.