Union helps superyacht members caught up in divorce dispute3 August 2018
The maritime union Nautilus International has helped members serving on a superyacht whose passports were confiscated in Dubai as part of a bitter divorce dispute between the vessel's Russian billionaire owner and his ex-wife.
The Union stepped in to support members after crew on the 115m Luna – the world's second largest expedition yacht – had their passports seized by local authorities in Dubai, where the vessel has been impounded since October last year as a result of divorce proceedings between the Russian owner, Farkhad Akhmedov, and his ex-spouse, Tatiana Akhmedov.
The crew were told their passports were being taken to prevent the superyacht from leaving Dubai. However, this meant there were unable to leave the vessel or the emirate for leave, or if they resigned from their positions.
Working with the Marshall Islands flag state, Nautilus sought to provide reassurance to the members working onboard – many of whom were worried about speaking to the Union because of onerous non-disclosure agreements.
Following this intervention, a successful court judgment ordered the return of the passports. However, the local coastguard appeared to place further obstacles in the way of the crew – arguing that a guarantee on the safe manning of the vessel was required before the documents were handed back.
When Nautilus members made representations to the emirate's British Embassy, consular staff placed pressure on the coastguard to accept the court order and return the passports rapidly.
Nautilus strategic organiser Danny McGowan said: 'Confiscating passports like this is a severe violation of the rights of seafarers, who are being treated as if they were chattels rather than maritime professionals.
'Yet again we have seen Nautilus members caught up in the personal problems of a superyacht owner,' he added. 'Yacht crew deserve the right to go to work without worrying about whether the owner is going through a divorce or – in the ongoing case of the superyacht Indian Empress – has their assets frozen whilst fighting extradition.
'Cases like this underline the need for decent treatment and effective representation of crews in this sector,' Mr McGowan added. 'We had approached the management company earlier in the year, when there was a pay issue, to open a dialogue to resolve problems like this without the need to resort to court judgments and consular support, but this request was rebutted.
'We already work closely with a number of strategic yacht partners and we re-issue our call to other organisations to become part of our network to prevent matters from escalating in such a way,' he added.
'We stand ready to assist our members wherever they are in the world, and we urge all yacht crew to become Nautilus members so they can have the support of the Union for maritime professionals if they get caught up in similar issues.'