Earlier in February this year, it was reported that 87 Indian sailors were stranded aboard five cargo vessels which were apprehended by the Indonesian navy on the grounds that they were anchored in their territorial waters. Although the crews have been sending out several SOS, very little is being done for them. A Goan from Panaji, who is among this group of stranded sailors, recently spoke of his plight and has once again requested authorities to act immediately so that he may be reunited with his family in Goa at the earliest.
According to the Times of India, a 38 year- old Goan sailor from Panaji, along with 86 other Indian sailors have been stranded on their vessels in Indonesian waters since February this year.
The cargo vessel he, along with 23 crew members, was working on was apprehended by the Indonesian navy on February 8. Five other such vessels that have been apprehended are anchored east of the Singapore Straits, in what was thought to be international waters, where they were awaiting berthing instructions.
However, the Indonesian navy claimed that these vessels were in their territory without permission. The documents seized from the five impounded vessels are now in possession of the Indonesian navy.
Stranded for so many months, the crew is understandably scared and extremely stressed. Speaking to the Times of India, the lone Goan sailor said, “We have been under house arrest for the last five months, completely isolated from the world. Our psychological condition is deteriorating as days and months go by, but we have no assurance from authorities. Seventy percent of the crew has already completed their contracts.”
After these sailors took to social media to highlight their plight, they were assured of help by the Indian Ambassador to Indonesia, Pradeep Rawat. He assured them that there would be a crew change for those who had completed their contracts or in case of a medical emergency.
However, till date, the sailors have not received any respite. “A crew member had a medical emergency back home and his relief could be prioritized on humanitarian grounds. But it was not done,” he states.
The assurance was made during the visit of the Ambassador and officers of the Indian Navy, Indonesian Navy and Indonesian Immigration department to the vessels in May.
The Standard Club (a global specialist marine and energy insurer), as reported in the Times of India, highlighted the fact that a number of ships anchored in waters around the island of Batam and near Bintan, on the southern and eastern side of the Singapore strait were being detained by Indonesian authorities in a bid to combat smuggling.
Although the process for crew relief has commenced, it is clearly slacking. NRI Commission director, Anthony D’Souza had promised that the commission would write to the Indian mission to provide speedy relief to the sailors.
The seafarer’s plight is a cause of concern to the general public and the shipping industry as well. Terming it as unfair treatment, Capt Sanjay Parashar from the Indian Shipping Industry stated that if ships have to be detained, then the issue should be resolved with the shipping companies and not the sailors.