Photo: Image Courtesy: HRAS

Concerns raised after arrested crude tanker and its crew go missing

Crude oil tanker MV Gulf Sky, which has been under arrest in UAE under a UAE Admiralty Law injunction since January 2020, seems to have gone missing as the vessel’s location is unknown for days.

By leaving the anchor off Port Khor Fakkan Anch and UAE waters, the ship has violated the injunction and a prohibition to sail.

The last AIS signal was received nine days ago according to VesselFinder, seafarer welfare charity Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) said, voicing concerns together with the Dominica Flag State Administration about the whereabouts and condition of the 22 crew members.

The charity and flag administration have been working together on the case since late June.

The crude tanker has been entangled into a legal dispute between the current and previous owners of the vessels for financial dues. The situation has resulted in challenging working conditions for the crew who were denied their salaries and even basic provisions during a global pandemic.

The ship is under the current ownership of Muscat-based Taif Mining Services, while the management of the vessel was assigned to Mumbai-registered United Islands Maritime Ventures Private Limited.

As informed, 28 Indian nationals have been on board the vessel since October 2019 with some joining in subsequent months.

“Many members of the crew have families with children and elderly parents who are depending on them financially and are now struggling to make ends meet, resulting in them having to take out burdensome loans,” HRAS said following an investigation into the case released in May 2020.

When reached out to the manager of the vessel, payment delays, as well as repatriation issues, were ascribed to the challenges caused by the pandemic.

At the beginning of June, the Dominica Maritime Administration initiated the necessary proceedings and referred the case to mediation but the managers have failed to resolve the case, pay the salaries of the seafarers and sign them off.

“Both organizations are working hard with national and international authorities to identify the location of the vessel and to understand the condition of the 22 Indian crew sailing under Captain Joginder Singh,” HRAS said.

“US authorities were immediately put on notice by the flag Administration who became aware of the evolving situation on July 13, 2020.”

“Our first priority is to ensure that the crew are safe, are not under any form of duress either internal or external to the vessel, and that their location is identified as soon as possible. We are working closely with the Dominica flag and the UAE Federal Transport Authority to seek clarity of the facts,” Human Rights at Sea CEO, David Hammond Esq. said.

As disclosed by the flag state, the Commonwealth of Dominica Office of Maritime Affairs and Marine Personnel has been investigating the operator United Island Maritime Ventures PVT LTD and the beneficial owner Taif Mining Services LLC after the vessel was reflagged from the Liberian Register of Ships.

“It was discovered during the provisional registration period that the vessel was in fact tied to Amir Dianat, who is also known as Ameer Abdulazeez Jaafar Almthaje.

“Mr. Dianat has been named by the United States Department of Treasury as a sanctioned individual within the Office of Foreign Asset Control’s sanctions list for his facilitation with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) efforts to generate revenue and smuggle weapons abroad. The designation of Mr. Dianat is taken pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, as amended by E.O. 13886, which follows recent designations of key networks that support the IRGC-QF’s destabilizing regional activity,” the flag state said.

President and CEO of the Commonwealth of Dominica International Ship Registry, Eric R. Dawicki expressed concern about the health and welfare of the crew, voicing fears that the crew might have been coerced to pick up anchor and get underway knowingly violating international and domestic law.

“Secondly, this office will not rest until we know the whereabouts of the vessel and its crew. We will engage in a multi-national effort to locate and promulgate the release of the vessel to immediately return to UAE waters,” he added.

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