On Tuesday IMO secretary general Kitack Lim used the Splash crew abandonment campaign as a platform to call for greater cooperation with port and flag states to help fight the scourge. Some countries are clearly paying heed.
Splash has obtained a circular sent to ship agents and port authorities from the United Arab Emirates’ Federal Transport Authority banning any Varun ship from calling at any UAE port or anchoring in local waters until further notice.
Mumbai-based Varun has been a serial crew abandonment offender with a number of its ships and employees left stranded off the UAE.
The majority of the gas carrier fleet of the Yudhishthir Khatau-led Varun Shipping is under arrest with the ships likely to be sold off soon, Splash reported last month.
The LPG tanker Maharshi Vamadeva had been off Fujairah port in the UAE since June over Varun’s failure to pay Drydocks World for repair work.
The crew on the ship off Fujairah wrote an email to the Indian embassy in the UAE last month asking for help. Conditions on the Maharshi Vamadeva were described in local UAE media as very dire, something the Federal Transport Authority backed up in its circular.
Varun has had a checkered recent past. Khatau was feted in the previous decade, anointed as a rising star on the international shipping stage. He even rose to become the youngest ever president of global shipowning body, Bimco in 2011. However, for the past five years Varun has run into regular difficulties, coming close to bankruptcy in 2014. Varun’s crew have been one of the worst hit by cases of crew abandonment in recent years, some even resorting to desperate hunger strikes.
The UAE has gained an unfortunate reputation as a premier destination for ships to be jettisoned by owners in recent years to the point whereby the local Indian consulate in Dubai has from this July started naming and shaming repeat offenders so that seafarers can see the most unscrupulous shipowners.