Abandoned seafarers return home after three-month ordeal

A group of 24 seafarers abandoned since July after their ships were detained in Ravenna Port in Italy for alleged non-payment of bunker supplies have finally been repatriated.

The seafarers were crewmembers onboard the Maltese-flagged chemical tanker Gobustan and the general cargo vessel Sultan Bey also registered in Malta.

Their ordeal began when the Gobustan was seized where it arrived on July 8 for alleged non-payment by the shipowner to the fuel supplier. The crew were not allowed to get off the ship as they are non-Schengen citizens and due to Covid-19 restrictions, so the ship was moored at the cruise terminal in Porto Corsini.

Days later, on July 16 the Sultan Bey, en route from Istanbul, was also detained by the Italian authorities, after docking at the Ravenna Bulk Terminal, due to the shipowner’s alleged outstanding debts.

Global maritime charity Stella Maris and the Ravenna’s Seafarers’ Welfare Committee stepped in to support the stranded crewmembers, working together with local organisations to ensure that food, supplies and fresh drinking water was available to the seafarers.

The crew of the Gobustan were repatriated on October 3 and 4 while the Sultan Bey crew went home on October 23 and 24.

Expressing his thanks to Stella Maris, Carlo Cordone, president of Ravenna’s Seafarers’ Welfare Committee said it had been an uphill struggle to get the seafarers repatriated, due to various challenges.

These included: air traffic bans due to Covid-19, arranging rapid response Covid-19 tests for crewmembers (and getting the results within 12 hours instead of the usual 24 to 48 hours), obtaining an extension from 48 hours to 72 hours of the Covid-19 free certificate from the Consul of Azerbaijan for the Azerbaijani crew and getting visa extensions for them. To add to all this, the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia with the high risk of airport closures made crew repatriation a very difficult and demanding task.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


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