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Sell off 2 abandoned ships to recover crew dues: HC

Decision on sale of MV Kamal 35 today

Written by Express News Service | Mumbai | Updated: April 9, 2014 2:38 pm

Bombay High Court on Tuesday ordered the sale of two of the 11 dredging vessels and barges abandoned at the Mumbai harbour limits following suits filed by their captains for recovery of dues that the vessel owners owe its crew.

Captains of the 11 vessels,including five foreign flagships,had filed suits in the HC for recovery of dues of the crew members that ranged between Rs 20.66 lakh and Rs 1.22 crore,with 12 per cent interest per annum. In the admiralty suits filed through advocate Abhishek Khare,the captains of the ships had asked the court that the ships be impounded and sold by the sheriff of Mumbai to recover the dues of about 150 crew members who were left stranded by the owners.

While the court ordered two ships — MV kamal 33 and MV Kamal 29 — to be sold,it will take a decision regarding the sale of MV Kamal 35 that was owned by the Ukrainian government on Wednesday. A representative of consul general of Ukraine urged the court to not order sale of the ship and said that Jaisu Shipping,the Gujarat-registered managing company of the ship,should take care of the ship’s maintenance. “We have a serious problem with this company,” he told the court.

Justice S J Kathawalla said,“You may have (problems),but not at our cost. Not at the cost of the life and health of people. Should I wait for a calamity?” The court noted that the vessel had broken in the centre,started drifting and was likely to cause a disaster.

The Ukranian consulate’s representative told the court that he would immediately contact the vessel owners to take necessary action. Justice Kathawalla then asked him to inform the court about their recourse on Tuesday. The deputy conservator (DC) of the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) asked the court to direct the owners to post qualified crew members on the vessel.

The DC also told the court that another vessel,MV Kamal 30,was leaking and water had entered into it. The court then said that it would order the sale of MV Kamal 30 as well. It,however,asked the DC to inspect the ship once more.

Arguing for a shipping agent,also starved of their payment,senior counsel Venkatesh Dhond told the court that the owners cannot claim to have no funds after the ship was sold. He also cautioned that MV Kamal 35 that had already been placed under arrest should also be sold before the Ukranian government claimed sovereign immunity.

The 11 vessels docked at the city’s harbour were abandoned by their crew after they were not paid by their owners. “The vessels have been in Mumbai since December 2012. They are now stationed with safe-manning (minimum required) crew on board,” Khare said. Claiming interim relief,the crew had sought a direction to the vessel owners to provide them food,fuel and hygienic living conditions on the vessel.

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