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15 Feb 2021

Karen McVeigh, The Guardian (UK)

Four years at sea, now just metres from shore: 'living hell' of stranded UAE ship

For the crew inside the Panama-flagged MT Iba, however, being grounded on the beach marks another harrowing chapter in an almost four-year ordeal at sea.

It is one of the worst cases of seafarer abandonment to come to light since that of Captain Ayyappan Swaminathan, whose 18-month plight on the MV Azraqmoiah cargo ship off the coast of the UAE was highlighted by the Guardian in 2019.

Abandoned by the vessel’s owner, their wages unpaid for 32 months, the five-person crew of the $4m (£2.8 million) Iba are in limbo. If they leave the ship they will lose their claim to the hundreds of dollars owed to them...

What began as a normal seafaring job turned into a “living hell”, the men say, after the tanker’s owner, Alco Shipping, once one of the UAE’s largest shipping firms, ran into financial difficulty and stopped paying salaries almost three years ago. Since then they have been forced to rely on charities for food and water...

If the crew set foot on land, they risk being detained for not having the right documents. Win’s passport, which expired while he has been at sea, remains with his former employer.