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The Merchant Navy Officers’ Guild Hong Kong (MNOG-HK), an affiliate of the Nautilus Federation, has provided support and assistance to eight seafarers from Myanmar who recently faced challenges after being airlifted from their stricken vessel.
The 2135gt Palauan-flagged vessel Lidia left the port of Kaohsiung, headed for Ho Chi Minh City, and dropped anchor near Dongsha Island on 6 October 2021.
Two days later, the master received repeated warnings from Taiwan that tropical storms Lionrock and Kompasu were arriving. The maximum rate of wind at that time was 50 knots, and the vessel was rolling and pitching heavily. As the situation worsened, the captain took the decision to abandon the vessel after sending out a distress signal. The entire crew was rescued by the Hong Kong Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre and arrived in Hong Kong by helicopter.
Covid-19 measures in place in Hong Kong at that time required all crew members to stay at the Penny Bay Quarantine Centre until 29 October. Regular tests were administered as required by the government throughout the seafarers' compulsory quarantine.
The mariners had not received wages since August 2021 – totalling US $30,000 – and the vessel was then suspected to have been abandoned by the Malaysian shipowner as the company could not be reached after 11 October, providing no response to email enquiries about repatriation and unpaid wages.
In addition to this apparent abandonment by the owner, the crew’s belongings – including passports, discharge books and any money that they had – were lost when they were rescued from the vessel.
MNOG-HK, working with the Hong Kong International Seafarers Service Centre (ISSC) provided urgent assistance to the seafarers so that they could return home safely, after the Myanmar Consulate General contacted the local office of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).
Emergency aid of US$400 was immediately distributed to the seafarers by MNOG-HK following completion of their quarantine period, and ISSC officers helped with transportation, accommodation, meals, and other daily necessities.
'When MV Lidia was stranded by typhoons, we felt very unlucky and depressed.' Captain Kyaw Ko Ko recalled.
'We were able to get full support from the Hong Kong Government, ITF, maritime unions and ISSC. We were fortunate to be in Hong Kong. My family and I sincerely thank everyone who has helped us.'
Due to pandemic travel restrictions, the crew were required to take an indirect route from Hong Kong to South Korea, finally arriving safely in Myanmar in early November.