The crew of the Maldivian ship detained in India's Kochi has been left stranded in the country for over five months.
MV Morning Star was detained last July after an Indian environmental authority launched a probe into the incident where another Maldivian vessel MV Sea Angel sank near Kannanur region as it was being towed by the now detained ship.
According to the Maldives Transport Authority MV Sea Angel was being towed away to be sold as scrap metal. Both the ships have been registered under ex-Thimarafushi constituency MP Mohamed Musthafa.
Transport Authority Chairman Abdul Rasheed Nafiz on Tuesday said as the issue is yet to be resolved the crew of morning Star has been left stranded at Kochi port. He added that it has become increasingly difficult to provide the crew with basic services.
"They have been struggling for over five months now. But as the issue hasn’t been resolved, the ship along with its crew has been unable to return to Maldives. The biggest problem is the difficulty of providing basic services to the crew," Nafiz explained.
The Authority revealed that crew comprises of six Maldivians and some foreign expatriates. He said the ships agent Molink has refused to take responsibility for the incident.
"They have an agent even in India. Food for the crew was being provided through that agent. But as the Male agent is not covering the cost, the Indian party has stopped supply. The crew is now in dire straits," Nafiz said.
He said Molink has been silent throughout the incident and has now even refused to speak to the local authorities over the issue. But as the responsibility for the incident has to be taken by the company, the Transport Authority has asked the Police to talk to the owners on November 22, Nafiz said. He added that as no crime has been committed and the case is not under investigation, Police have not been able to provide any assistance in the matter.
Nafiz further said the crew has not been paid salaries for many months and their families have been filing complaints at the relevant authorities in Maldives. Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has stepped into investigate the case, Transport Authority said.
"We are doing everything we can to help them. Some of the heads of this Authority has called in personal favors from contacts in India to help out the crew. Our legal team is also working to resolve this issue," Nafiz said.
Musthafa said Molink is a company of a relative but admitted that both the ships have been purchased under his name. He insisted that Molink was accountable in the matter.
According to Musthafa, while both ships have been registered with Molink, it has been insured by Allied Insurance. The insurance company has paid MVR1.1 million for Morning Star to Molink, but the company has not paid any of the crew members, Musthafa said.
"An Indian court has ruled that morning star would not be allowed to leave until the other ship is retrieved from the ocean. As the ship which sank is quite large and if the insurance money was paid we would have retrieved it by now. But Allied has only paid for the other ship while Molink has refused to pay the crew," Musthafa detailed.
Musthafa further said a lawsuit has now been filed against Molink for their failure to take responsibility for the whole incident.