Twenty-one seafarers remain stuck on board a Liberian-flagged vessel in the Gulf of Suez for nearly six months due to a technical problem. They have sent a message to a sailors’ helpline in Chennai, saying they have run out of fuel and food and have not been paid for months.

The ore-oil carrier, A. Whale, is owned by TMT group, a global shipping major based in Taiwan, which has several vessels capable of moving cargo, from oil to vehicles.

Last Thursday, the group filed for bankruptcy protection in a court in Houston, the U.S., as it was unable to pay its debts.

A. Whale has 14 Indian sailors on the vessel. The crew members’ SOS, sent on June 21 to sailors’ helpline in Chennai, said no help was forthcoming from any quarter. “We have run out of bunker (fuel) and our food is rotting. We have not been paid for the last six months. We are not getting repatriated. In-fighting has started among the crew. We are still at anchorage in the Suez,” said a crew member in a mail sent to the helpline.

When contacted by Manoj Joy, National Coordinator of Sailors Helpline, Mumbai-based recruitment agent Capt. Subodh Tiwari said he did not recruit the Indian sailors directly as he did not hold a ‘Recruitment and placement of seafarers’ licence’. He routed the sailors through some other company.

Mr. Joy said the Director-General of Shipping should initiate action against the recruitment agent.

Talking to The Hindu, a Shipping Ministry official said the immediate task was to bring back the stranded crew members and find ways to settle the wage dues to them.

“We believe that these sailors have been recruited through a Recruitment and Placement Services Agent. We will find out why these people have not been paid for so long, what prevented the replacement of the exhausted crew and why the management failed to set right the technical problem,” he said.