Fifteen Filipino crew members aboard a cargo vessel owned by a Taiwan national have been rescued after almost nine months of confinement in deplorable conditions, Brian Otieno of the reported.

The 15 set foot outside the vessel, which has been detained at the Mombasa port by the Kenya Maritime Authority, for the first time last 24 August.

The vessel was seized on December 9, 2016 as it does not meet standards for going to sea.

The crew members had been told by the vessel owner, through a manning agent, that the ship would head to Malaysia from Kenya.

“But when they arrived in Kenya via Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, they were told the ship had to undergo minor repairs first,” said Betty Makena, International Transport Woekers Federation inspector in charge of East Africa.

The crew worked for long hours to repair the ship, which had no generator, air conditioning, diesel and clean water.

“The toilets were blocked and the crew was not allowed to step outside because their papers had not been processed. It was like they were imprisoned there,” said Makena.

According to Maritime laws, a vessel owner is supposed to take care of crew members, ensuring they live in good conditions.

“If the owner is not around, the captain of the vessel acts like the ship owner and the responsibilities fall on them,” said Makena.

The official said the captain and the vessel’s chief engineer lived in a hotel in Mombasa’s North Coast while crew members suffered.

“The captain and the chief engineer have only been visiting them once a day," she said.

The fifteen have not been paid since getting to Kenya.

“We were to be paid USD350 (about Sh36,750) per month but we have received nothing up to now,” said crew member Clinton Pancho who failed to speak proper English.

Makena said the ITF headquarters in London learnt of the fate of the crew members, after somehow managing to contact them, and instructed her to investigate.

Stephen Owaki, Pancho and Seafarers Union of Kenya secretary general, said the Taiwanese owner of the vessel has bowed to pressure and booked flight tickets for the 11 Filipinos.

As of this writing, they are expected to arrive in Manila last 28 August.

However, Owaki and Makena suspect foul play. They say the owner has to pay the crew before they leave Kenya.

“Most of the time they say they will be paid after the crew leaves the country but they rarely get paid. That is why we are demanding that the crew get paid while in Kenya,” said Owaki.

Should this not happen, he said, the vessel should be sold and the money used to pay the crew the Sh3.6 million they are owed,

“When we inquired we were informed their passports already have exit stamps. We do not know when they are to leave and where the passports are right now,” said Makena.

Authorities are now looking for the owner of the vessel in collaboration with Taiwanese authorities and Interpol.

“He has not been picking calls and has been evading us,” Mission to Seamen chaplain Reverend Moses Muli told The Star.

The mission has taken the crew into their fold, giving them food and water.

Catholic priest Father Wilybard Lagho,the vicar general of the Mombasa Catholic Archdiocese, conducted a special mass for the rescued group.

Buhay Marino Dyaryo is published monthly by SEAFARERS MARITIME MEDIA, INC.

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