A group of 18 seafarers facing a food crisis because they have been stranded in the Port of Durban for more than five years, have been thrown a lifeline by non-profit organisation Meals on Wheels.
The seafarers are on board three vessels that have been abandoned. A ship is deemed abandoned when the owners no longer pay the crew or see to the ship’s needs. Charity organisation The Mission to Seafarers, which sees to the needs of crews around the world, recently withdrew assistance to these affected crews due to a shortage of funds.
Meals on Wheels acting director in KwaZulu-Natal, Gershon Naidoo, “When we arrived the next morning with the food, we heard the sad story of these sailors who had been abandoned by their company. They haven’t been paid. They don’t have money for food. And it’s really, really a sad story. And we managed to give them enough food that will last them for at least a month. And then when we were on board the one guy said to another one: OK, this is nice food, but our diesel is almost out and when our diesel is out we don’t have anything to cook the food with. So then we immediately made a few phone calls and we managed to get two gas stoves for them. So at least now they can cook the food we have donated to them.”
Meanwhile, the South African Maritime Safety Authority’s manager for mariners’ welfare Sibusiso Rantsoabe says of the three abandoned vessels, one is a tanker that has been attached by an Angolan bank. The other two are sister ships that service oil and gas rigs at sea. Rantsoabe says a crew often stays on board an abandoned vessel because they see it as their only hope to get the salaries that are due to them.
“So they didn’t want to leave the vessel. Because this is very important to the seafarers, they lose the hold on the vessel if they leave and go home. If someone comes and says we will fly you home, they will normally not accept that kind of help because they want to hold on to the vessel. Once they go home, they lose that hold on the vessel.”