Middle EastOperations

Eleven new cases of crew abandonment in opening weeks of 2021

While this week has seen some hard fought crew abandonment cases come to a merciful close there’s no sign that this terrible shipping scourge is relenting.

Eliza Ader, co-founder of UK-based Periplous, a general-purpose open source research and mapping blog that has been tracking crew abandonment closely in recent months, told Splash that 11 new cases have been recorded in the opening weeks of 2021. Iran, Yemen and the regular crew abandonment hotspot, the United Arab Emirates, top the locations of recent abandonment cases.

Some long standing horrendous cases have been resolved in the past week.

The crew of an Alco Shipping tanker who had not set foot on dry land for nearly four years after being abandoned onboard their ship, which later ran aground off the United Arab Emirates, are finally going home to see their families.

The crew on the 5,000 dwt Iba (pictured) have settled more than three years of backpay and are set to be repatriated next month

Elsewhere, a nine-day hunger strike on a Palmali Shipping tanker moored in Beirut finally brought results with the crew put on flights home on Wednesday and offered $114,000 to cover some of their lost wages — less than 40% of what they’re owed. Some hadn’t been paid in 15 months.

Palmali was one of the largest carriers in the Volga-Don basin and the Caspian region. In 2018, the company was declared bankrupt with the opening of bankruptcy proceedings. In March last year, the Azerbaijani – Turkish businessman Mubariz Mansimov Gurbanoglu, the founder of Palmali, was arrested in Turkey, accused of being involved in attempted coup to topple the Turkish president back in 2016. A dozen of his ships remain abandoned at ports across the Mediterranean with around 150 crew missing hundreds of thousands of dollars in backpay.

Below is the latest Periplous map, charting today’s crew abandonment cases around the world including those on the official International Labour Organisation database as well as other ships identified by Perilous researchers. Blue dots indicate active cases, purple ones are non-ILO, green dots represent resolved cases and orange ones indicate inactive cases.

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.


  1. This is an abominable situation that never seems to get better. At last some tracking of these abuses is now being done by Periplous, which is a huge step forward. When l was researching my dissertation there were few databases. Cases were recorded at the ITF Special Seafarers Section and at the Missions to Seamen, both headquartered in London I hope they pool their knowledge to present a more united front to these abusive and inhumane shipowners. I was only able to conclude that it happens, and cite examples, but l could only hint at it’s frequency. Regardless, cases were turning up every few months in Halifax, N.S.,and it’s surrounds. To act too zealously in the seafarers’ interest was to be accused of giving the port a bad name, so little did port authorities care for those fellow-beings abandoned there, often with negligible food, water or diesel for the generator. Studying the excellent map l give full marks to Peter Lahay, the ITF Inspector based in my old port of Vancouver, who has confronted and faced down these offending owners with determined action. I had hoped to pursue a Supreme Court of Canada action to extend the same Charter Rights and Freedoms enjoyed by ordinary Canadians to visiting seafarers, but was blighted by the Kim Campbell Conservative government, who shut the programme down. I suppose it’s important to know who your friends are! But at least l was able to put together with the CBC some radio and tv coverage of the abuse of seafarers rights.

  2. Sad state of affairs when we start reviewing the crews that have been abandoned and measuring their time aboard in terms of “years” instead of months.

    Like the joke that we are all living through right now that has been assigned under the COVID QUARANTINE category, crew abandonment continues with little effort towards resolution on a large scale. NOT because we can’t do it, but largely due to the political forces that sit around with their hands out waiting for the right amount of “incentive pay” to motivate them to actually do something extraordinary. That would be, to help another human being NOT because you are required to, but because it’s the morally right thing to do.

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