The stranded crew of an arrested bulk carrier off the coast of Chennai, India were forced to abandon ship Tuesday fearing that the vessel would sink, but only to be told that they could face charges for entering the country without permission.
Update: The captain and crew were granted 24-hour shore passes on Wednesday.
According to a report by the Times of India, the captain of the Korean-flagged OSM Arena ordered his crew to abandon ship on a fishing boat and to seek help after the vessel began to take on water. Soon after, the captain and chief engineer descended on a Madras High Court and told a judge that his crew had been abandoned without power or provisions, and that their vessel was taking on water and in danger of capsizing.
The Captain said he had joined the ship two months ago with his crew, but the ship has been without fuel and power since April 3. “The previous owner supplied provisions and stores, but we were running out of the stocks. My men were starving and crying. For days, we managed with dry food. The ship is no longer stable as water has entered one of the cargo holds and the engine room. Since the vessel can capsize any moment, I gave a call to all the 14 crew to abandon the ship,” the captain told reports.
Unfortunately for the captain and crew, they were told that coming to shore without clearance was against the law and cases would be filed against them. The court later ordered three of the crewmembers to return to the vessel, the Times of India reports.
The incident is the latest involving a dead vessel and abandoned crew off the coast of Chennai. In November 2012, 6 crew members from the grounded MT Pratibha Cauvery were killed while trying to reach shore after abandoning ship during a storm. The incident raised concerns over the number of dead vessels that have found a safe haven in Indian ports. Two shipping executives were later arrested and charged in connection to seafarers deaths.