The 14 Myanmar sailors say they have been starving since last Friday

The crew of Korean ship ‘OSM Arena’ that abandoned the vessel citing distress conditions were granted shore passes on Wednesday.

Leaving the cargo vessel in the outer anchorage of Chennai Port, the 14 crew members entered the city, in a boat, via the fishing harbour, on Tuesday. Soon after, the ship’s captain, Yethi Ka, informed the Madras High Court that he had ordered the crew to abandon ship as it was unstable, the police said.

The sailors met the foreigners regional registration officer N. Kannan and explained the circumstances that forced them to make the decision. “They claimed to have abandoned ship under distress conditions. We have granted them shore passes that will be renewed every 24 hours. An enquiry is on to ascertain why the crew left the ship,” Dr. Kannan said.

The Myanmar sailors said they had been starving since Friday and survived on dried food. Unable to bear the hardships and fearful of the instability of the ship, they abandoned it and reached the shore with the help of local fishermen.

Demanding their immediate repatriation to their country, Captain Yethi Ka said they had flight tickets booked for April 6, but it was now cancelled. They will not be able to go back to their country without clearance from immigration officials here.

Chennai Port Trust chairman Atulya Misra said a police complaint had been filed against the crew members for deserting the ship, which is anchored off Chennai Port.

K. Sreekumar, inspector of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, said they were extending help to the stranded crew members on humanitarian grounds.

When an application relating to the sale of the vessel came up before Justice R. Sudhakar of the Madras High Court, the Captain said the former owner of the vessel had supplied food to the 14 crew members until April 4. Thereafter, the supply stopped and the crew survived on dried food alone. Since the ship’s generators had run out of fuel, there was a blackout on the vessel and water was entering its engine room, he said.

In his order, Justice Sudhakar said the ship had been brought for sale by sealed bids. One of the parties, a plaintiff before the Calcutta High Court, filed a petition here seeking a stay on the ship’s sale.

A division bench granted an interim stay on confirmation of the sale order. The buyer who agreed to purchase the ship for Rs. 17.10 crore had sought time till May 7 to pay 25 per cent of the sum. In view of the interim order by the Bench, Justice Sudhakar granted time till that date.