Stranded vessel Malaviya Twenty arrested by admiralty courts after failure to pay crew
- Credit: Nick Butcher
A 12-strong ship crew from India who have been stranded in Great Yarmouth for months without pay have taken a step closer to freedom, after their ship was 'arrested' by authorities.
The Malaviya Twenty, an Indian-owned off-shore supply vessel arrived in the town in June, but financial issues have meant its crew are unpaid since July, and are unable to return home.
The crew are currently living aboard the vessel, which is docked on River Yare, but with their visas having expired, are unable to leave its decks for prolonged periods of time, thousands of miles from their families in India.
The ship had initially been detained by the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) on July 4, with support of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, after failing to pay its crew.
Paul Keenan, ITF inspector, said the company has amassed debts of $281,000 (around £226,500) in unpaid salaries, along with a further £30,000 owed in port fees.
On Wednesday, the ship was arrested by the admiralty courts, at the ITF's request.
This means either a legal agreement must be made with ICICI Bank – its owner – to pay the crew, or the ship will be sold. Proceeds would then pay the debts.
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Mr Keenan said: 'The situation had got to a point where it had to be resolved, which is why we have arrested it.
'It now looks as though there is light at the end of the tunnel. The situation has put great mental strain on the crew, but it could now be resolved within 12 weeks.'
Before the arrest, GOL Off Shore, who operate the ship, had applied for an extra two months to pay the salaries.
We contacted GOL Off Shore for comment but did not receive any response.
Port chaplain hails 'magnificent' response to appeal
This week, the Rev Peter Paine, port chaplain of Great Yarmouth, started an appeal to bring some festive cheer to the all-male crew, whose ages range from 30 to 62. He asked members of the public to offer donations of hygiene products, gifts and supplies, and received an over-whelming response.
Mr Paine said: 'Donations have been coming thick and fast, it really has been overwhelming.
'People have been offering all kinds of gifts for these people, with some even promising things like iPads. It's been really magnificent.'
He added: 'Everybody puts Great Yarmouth down but the people here have been like gold dust. If there is a case that needs helping they rise to the occasion.
'We've had one lady knock on our door and say 'I don't have much to give but here's a fiver'. It shows how this terrible situation has really touched people.'
Support has also come from further afield – with donations from Lowestoft College and people in Norwich. Mr Paine will continue to collect donations at the Seafarer's Centre on South Quay until next Wednesday.