Crew of arrested oil tanker in Bahrain finally go home

Sixteen men from India and Myanmar repatriated at last, but without any salaries for several months
The 16 men have been trapped aboard the tanker for more than 5 months without pay
The 16 men have been trapped aboard the tanker for more than 5 months without pay

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After more than five months stranded aboard an oil tanker under port arrest off Bahrain, 16 crewmembers (14 from India and two from Myanmar) have finally been repatriated home, but without any of the salaries owned to them by the defunct shipping line.

The Mongolian oil tanker, MT Surya Kuber, which is operated by 7Seas Ship Management, an Indian-owned shipping company based in Singapore, was banned from leaving Bahrain after Asry and Kanoo Shipping filed a lawsuit for unpaid debts amounting to US $220,000.

The shipping line has since filed for bankruptcy protection, leaving its crewmembers stranded aboard the oil tanker, and without any of the US $118,000 in pay owed to them.

According to the Gulf Daily News, the men have not been paid since October last year.

The Indian embassy announced Tuesday that it has secured the necessary documents for its citizens to be flown home at the Indian government’s expense, while a fundraising drive by the embassy has also raised funds for the two men from Myanmar to be flown home.

The Indian crew members left Bahrain Tuesday, while the two remaining crew members will be repatriated to Myanmar Wednesday, according to a statement from the Indian embassy.

"It is good to see they are going back home after months. The Indian Embassy paid for the air tickets for the 14 sailors," said Stephen Thanapaul, chaplain for the Mission to Seafarers in Bahrain.

"We wanted the ordeal for the crew to end and took all measures to ensure they leave the country,” said Indian Embassy first secretary Ram Singh. “They have not received their pending salaries for months and the embassy will follow up their case.”

He did not elaborate or give any indication of why it had taken more than five months to secure the release of the men.

The oil tanker, formerly named Prathiba Koyna, was at the centre of a similar controversy in 2012 when 34 Indian crew members were also stranded in Bahrain for five months due to unpaid debts by the shipping line.

They were also eventually allowed to leave the country, but without their salaries.

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