Samsa delivers emergency food rations to abandoned crews

Starving sailors rescued in Durban

Some have been stranded for months after their ships were arrested under maritime law or abandoned by owners

24 January 2022 - 16:28
By Bobby Jordan
SA maritime authorities and Meals on Wheels have delivered emergency food rations to sailors stuck on abandoned vessels in Durban harbour.
Image: Supplied SA maritime authorities and Meals on Wheels have delivered emergency food rations to sailors stuck on abandoned vessels in Durban harbour.

Emergency food has been delivered to 18 sailors stranded aboard abandoned vessels in Durban harbour, the SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) said on Monday.

Some of the sailors have been stuck aboard for months, unable to return home because their vessels have either been arrested under maritime law or abandoned by their owners.

Two of the vessels have been in the harbour for five years and a third arrived earlier this month, Samsa said.

The sailors come from Iran, Bangladesh and India and were within hours of running out of food. The initial plea for help came from the Mission to Seafarers, an organisation dedicated to helping sailors in need.

“Samsa approached non-profit organisation Meals on Wheels Community Services SA which without hesitation made food parcels available to the sailors.

“Abandonment occurs when the ship owner fails to fulfil fundamental obligations to sailors relating to timely repatriation and payment of outstanding remuneration and the provision of the necessities of life, such as adequate food, accommodation and medical care. Abandonment will have occurred when the master of the ship has been left without financial means in respect of the ship's operation,” Samsa said.

Abandoned sailors in Durban harbour welcome an emergency food drop from the SA Maritime Safety Authority.
Image: Supplied Abandoned sailors in Durban harbour welcome an emergency food drop from the SA Maritime Safety Authority.

Meals on Wheels confirmed the sailors were living in poor conditions and largely dependent on charitable donations.

“Their conditions are bad,” said Meals on Wheels media spokesperson Germaine Cecil.

“It is not a good space to be in,” she said, adding that the sailors had also received gas stoves because they had no cooking facilities. The Mission to Seafarers provided wifi to allow the stranded sailors to communicate with their families.

“A lot of them don’t understand what is going on. They are just waiting. They can’t do anything,” Cecil said.