ITF: 15 Seafarers abandoned on LPG tanker

A Spanish-flagged LPG tanker is anchored in Manilla Bay, the Philippines without a rudder and a crew of 15 seafarers running low on supplies, electricity, and wi-fi, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) informed.

Image courtesy by ITF, as provided by the crew

The ITF said that the 7,600 gross tonnage MV Celanova, owned by GLOBALGAS SA, from Madrid, Spain, has been abandoned by the shipowner, leaving the crew without pay for months.

Abandoned seafarers
Courtesy of ITF as provided by the ship’s crew

As informed, some of the Spanish and Caribbean crew have been on board since August, others since November.

The tanker broke down back in December and lost its rudder. It was towed to anchor in Manila Bay shortly after.

Philippines Port State Control detained the vessel on February 14, after authorities found it to be in breach of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) over unpaid wages following notification by the ITF.

The ITF is urging Filipino authorities to allow the ship into port to facilitate assistance from the flag state and the vessel’s insurers, the American Club.

As informed, the local authorities have agreed but only under a condition that a tug is provided alongside the tanker and on standby while the vessel is moored.

“I’ve worked over 14 years as an ITF inspector, I have dealt with many abandoned vessels so far and this is the first time someone has asked crew pay tug hire,” Luz Baz, ITF Coordinator, Spain, said.

“The ship needs to be in port. The crew can’t start the engine. Something has to be done. The crew are desperate. They need fuel, fresh water, provisions, medication, safety parts.”

What is more, Spanish mortgage bank ABANCA is reportedly frustrating attempts to sell the vessel to help finance the owner’s debts.

Baz wrote to Maritime Authorities in Manila warning the ship and its crew were at enormous risk of potential anchor drift, fire on board or accident due to having no capacity to maneuver.

“The situation is seriously compromising the safety and health of a crew. They are exhausted after suffering months of enormous stress,” she wrote.

The crew’s plight is further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The ILO abandonment report says communications have been maintained with the ship’s owner and instructions have been given to provide food and fuel.  

A flag state surveyor was on board from February 27 to March 2 to check the real situation, the ILO reported. The Spanish Maritime Administration is working on getting crew members repatriated working together with all stakeholders including the ITF.  

The Spanish government has also contacted the Philippines government requesting the ship be docked in safe port, according to ILO reports. 

Ship’s master Rolando Garcia Alarcon warned the ILO the ship has serious technical deficiencies. 

“He requested authorisation for the ship to berth, based on humanitarian and safety reasons citing the ship being without a rudder, fuel and lights. The master also reported the vessel’s chains and anchors were damaged. Garbage on deck also poses a health risk and the crew and ship especially in the case of fire,” the ITF cited the ship’s master as saying.

The ITF has written to the International Labour Organization requesting their intervention.