Kuwaiti authorities are being pressured by unions to save a group of abandoned seafarers who are at risk of death by hunger strikes in their efforts to draw attention to their plight.
Six of the crew onboard the nearly 40 year old bulk carrier MV Ula, which had been sailing under the Palau flag – but which is now flagless – were hospitalised to stabilise their blood pressure and blood sugar levels, before being returned to the ship. The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) said their lives remain at risk if they continue to refuse food. The seafarers say they cannot afford to walk away from the vessel and lose their families' incomes.
ITF Arab World and Iran network coordinator Mohamed Arrachedi said: 'The Kuwaiti authorities must act urgently to save these seafarers from killing themselves through this hunger strike. While it was the Qatari shipowner and the Flag State of Palau who let these seafarers down, we call on Kuwait to show leadership in resolving this crisis.'
On Sunday 24 January, Kuwait Maritime Authorities visited the ship, and met with the crew, but as yet there is no concrete movement on seafarers' demands for payment of wages and repatriation, said the ITF.
The 19 Indian, Turkish, Azerbaijani and Bangladeshi seafarers are in the third week of a hunger strike in the port of Shuaiba, Kuwait, in a desperate effort to get off the ship, which was abandoned 11 months ago by its Qatari ship owner, Aswan Trading and Contracting.
The crew has been trying recover more than $400,000 USD in wages owed to them. Most had also been onboard for 14 months, but some have been onboard over two years.
When a ship is abandoned the vessel’s Flag State normally steps in to take action, but Palau terminated the ship's registration in September 2020 and the vessel remains flagless.