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Shanghai Maritime Court orders Varun to pay $115,000 in landmark crew abandonment ruling

In a potential game changing move, stranded crew onboard a Varun aframax have successfully sued the Indian owner at a court in China, potentially paving the way for hundreds of other abandoned seafarers around the world to take legal measures to claw back late salaries and seek repatriation.

Five crew – a mix of Indians and Bangladeshis – have won a case at the Shanghai Maritime Court, whereby Varun must now pay them $110,000 in back pay and $5,000 in compensation, according to local Chinese newspaper Laodong Daily.

The crew of the 1997-built Amba Bhakti had not been paid since February and conditions and supplies onboard the tanker had since deteriorated considerably. The ship had been abandoned by a shipyard to the north of Shanghai.

With ship abandonment cases escalating dramatically this year, this landmark case could spur other stranded seafarers to seek legal redress.

The Mission to Seafarers is challenging charterers to avoid using companies that have mistreated crew in the past, while asking port authorities to ensure that vessels have the necessary financial securities in place before allowing them into port. Reverend Ken Peters from the UK charity told Splash earlier this year: “The failure to pay wages has a serious impact on families who are often evicted from their rented homes, have mortgages foreclosed, and unable to pay for education have their children send home from school. Seafarers are the easy target for reducing costs but inflicting such punitive measures on the innocent and ignoring their plight is unconscionable. Such behaviour is unacceptable and the shipping industry ought to speak out about those who, in attempts to maintain their other trades, sacrifice individual ships to uphold their business.”

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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