Marooned in Malta, 21 Filipino seamen seek helpBy Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines — Twenty-one Filipino seafarers aboard a cargo ship have been adrift off the port of Malta for months and are seeking compensation from Taiwanese employers alleged to have virtually abandoned them at sea with no fuel and limited food and water.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday two members of the Philippine embassy in Rome, which also services Malta, checked on the seafarers aboard the stranded MV A Lady Bug, a Taiwanese-owned carrier of cars and trucks, and brought them some supplies.
The seafarers told the embassy representatives they would appreciate repatriation assistance but only after they receive pending wages from their employer.
“The Embassy team boarded on August 11, Sunday, A Lady Bug, personally checked on the condition of the seafarers and brought them supplies such as noodles, drinking water and specific medicines,” said DFA spokesperson Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez Tuesday.
During the meeting of the Embassy team with the seafarers, the seafarers said they wished to be repatriated as soon as possible, but only after their pending claim for back salaries and other benefits from the management of the ship are fully settled,” Hernandez said in a press briefing.
MV A Lady Bug, a Panamanian-registered vehicle carrier had been adrift “for months” some 15 nautical miles or around 28 kilometers off Maltese port limits, Hernandez said. The condition of the Filipinos reached the DFA in July.
He said Maltese authorities just recently granted the ship entry into its waters, providing it fuel to enter its territory.
“The crew had problems with nonpayment of wages and with their food provisions, fuel and water. It appeared that the mother company of A Lady Bug has been having financial problems,” said Hernandez.
“With the problematic anchor and lack of fuel, the ship found itself drifting, a cause of concern not only for the vessel but also for the security of other passing boats in the area,” he added.
It was unclear why the troubled ship was not readily granted access to the Maltese port, a busy hub in the Mediterranean, but Hernandez said certain protocols cover the entry of ships in ports not originally on their itinerary.
He said Maltese port authorities only recently granted the ship entry into its waters, providing it fuel to move in.
The DFA still had no information on the ship’s port of origin and supposed destination and the name of the company that deployed Filipinos.
Hernandez said the Filipino crewmen and their Pakistani captain have all decided to take legal action against their Taiwanese employers. The International Transport Worker’s Federation in Malta has also vowed to provide assistance to the Filipinos in pushing their case forward.