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KMA makes food donation to stranded Syrian seafarers at Mombasa Port

By Sponsored Content | January 5th 2021
The abandoned ship (PHOTO: Omondi Onyango)

?Chief Engineer Mohamed Abdi who has now taken command of the ill-fated stateless general cargo ship, MV Jihan stranded at the Port of Mombasa since 2019 is a worried man.

Zanzibar which was the state where the vessel was registered withdrew the flag state registration following successful lobbying by Kenyan authorities after conditions aboard the ship were found to be unbearable.

He together with 10 other crew members have been living on handouts and donations from well-wishers since the owner of the vessel Maher Lobadi abandoned them despite their safe voyage from a Russian Port to Mombasa where they delivered steel for construction.

Initially, the crew consisted of 18 men, all Syrian nationals serving diligently on the Japanese built vessel. Following their abandonment and at the height of Covid -19 in March 2020 four crew members left before another three left for home after desperately waiting for their wages in vain.

On Monday, the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) Director-General, Mr. Robert Njue dispatched a team of two officers with foodstuff to last one week that was given to the crew.

''We are responding to humanitarian assistance to help the remaining Syrian crew on this vessel. MV Jihan had arrived at the Mombasa Port en-route from Russia via Salala Port in Oman,'' Njue said.

Ms. Josephine Nthia, KMA assistant registrar of seafarers, and Dorothy Mose, a marine officer delivered the food rations that included fresh meat, wheat flour, cooking oil, powdered milk, potatoes, tomatoes, and onions from the maritime regulator.

The vessel remains anchored at the Port Reitz Ship anchorage area within the Port of Mombasa.

''After a Port State Control inspection, carried out by KMA officers, it was established that the vessel was out of provisions and that the living conditions on board were deteriorating and the crew had not received their wages,'' Njue said.

He added that the crew is currently relying on donations from well-wishers like KMA, Mission to Seafarers, International Transport Federation (ITF), and the Apostolate of the Sea.

KMA, Njue added presented the vessels local handling agent, Seaforth Shipping with a copy of the inspection form and the list of deficiencies that need to be rectified before sailing.

''One of the functions of KMA is to oversee the welfare of seafarers. In discharging it Port State Control following the Maritime Labor Convention, 2006, KMA has been communicating with the ships agent, ITF, and the Mission to Seafarers to ensure safe repatriation of the seafarers back to their respective home.

Eleven of the stranded seafarers filed a case in the admiralty court and have been issued with a court order to sell the ship and recover their wages.

Chief Engineer Abdi told the Standard aboard the vessel that the 18 crew are owed a total cumulative salary of US $ 300,000.

''We are tired and want to go home. We begged enough and feel ashamed that our employer has abandoned us far away from home. We do not have enough to eat, we lack fresh drinking water and do not have adequate water to bath,'' he said.

The 53-year-old veteran of the sea with two and half decades at sea and a resident of Tactous City in Arwand island in Syria said that he cannot wait to get back home.

''Today's gesture by KMA is a big relief. We have been starving since the last ration finished. We are asking for food aid from Mombasa residents. We are grateful to KMA for this food donation. However, we still need fresh water and diesel to run a generator that will provide electricity to light up the ship,'' he said.

Mr. Deyaa Halimeh, a second engineer, aged 30 years said that the vessel requires a complete overhaul before it can set sail in international waters.

'' There are so many things that need to be checked and overhauled here. It is not advisable to sail in her,'' he said.
Local nautical surveyor, Captain Talib Mohamed was aboard the vessel doing the mandatory condition ship surveys for appraisals and valuation for the Admiralty court for purposes of putting the ship up for sale.

''We shall be able to ascertain its current value when we offer it for sale as per the admiralty court ruling,'' Capt. Talib said.

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