Kenya: Come and Buy Our Ship, Abandoned Syrian Sailors Plead

24 January 2021

Living in a ship with no basic needs at the port of Mombasa is what 11 Syrian seafarers have endured for almost a year and a half.

The men have been reduced to relying on well-wishers for food, clothes, water and drugs.

They skip meals almost daily, surviving on scarce fresh water since getting out to get the necessities is difficult as they have no money. The sailors know they can be arrested for not having the necessary travel documents.

The 11 men are desperate in their attempt to place the ship on auction so as to recover what the vessel owner owes them and fly back to Syria.

A court in Mombasa recently allowed them to sell the MV Jinan.

Local churches and the Coast Guard Service have been of help to the men.

They provide them with food as the MV Jinan fridges cannot operate. The vessel has no fuel to run its engine and generators.

Matters get rougher at night as the 11 have to use their phone lights to move around the ship.

To communication with the outside world, they buy petrol for the small generator, their only source of power.

They use it to charge their phones.

The sailors' problems began in September 2019 when MV Jinan anchored in Mombasa.

The ship was heading to Oman when it encountered a storm that made the crew divert it to Mombasa. The owner abandoned it and its cargo.

The crew was made up of 18 men but seven found a way of flying back home before coronavirus struck.

The remaining have lost contact with the vessel owner.

Getting meals, water, medicine clothes and other necessities is difficult.

Mr Abdeh Mohammed, one of the Syrians, said they have not been paid for all those months the ship has been in Mombasa.

"We are not beggars. We are workers but the conditions have forced us to beg for food," the sailor told the Sunday Nation on Friday.

"We are eager to see our families. Some men here have very young families. The youngest in this group had just married when we set sail."

The men are in the process of recovering their monthly pay and port demurage charges which have accumulated to Sh30 million.

The money must be paid before the ship is allowed to leave the port.

The High Court gave permission to the men to sell the ship.

Obligated by law

"Depending on well-wishers is humiliating. We ask anyone willing to buy the ship to come. We need to get our money, settle the port charges and go back home," Mr Mohammed said.

MV Jinan, built in 1984, has general cargo weighing 5,000 tonnes.

Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) Director-General Robert Njue said the ship would be allowed to leave as soon as the necessary charges are settled.

"KMA has intervened in this matter because we are obligated by the law," Mr Njue told the Sunday Nation.

"We recently forced a fishing vessel to pay its crew and have them taken back home. The crew of MV Jinan have not abandoned the ship."

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