Tees ship visitors support crew denied shore leave

The plight of a crew from a bulk carrier who had been denied shore leave for up to 10 months, and whose work contracts had been extended, has finally ended thanks to our Tees ship visitors.

The ship arrived at Tees Dock in Northeast England on the weekend of August 13 and 14, with 22 seafarers on board. On August 15, two Stella Maris’ ship visitors Billy Barnett and Roger Worton conducted a routine visit, taking with them welcome packs and bags of clothing for the crew. These were well-received by the men.

During the course of conversation, several crew members indicated that all was not right on board. Billy and Roger found out that some of the crew had not been allowed shore leave for up to 10 months, due to Covid risks. Their contracts had also been extended for up to 10 months.

This initial contact with the crew was followed up by a second one the day after by another two of our Tees ship visitors, Graham Sargeant and Wico van Mourik. They were not allowed to board the ship, so a senior crew member came down to meet them.

The seafarer said the crew was under huge mental and physical strain on the seafarers. He said that during the voyage to Teesport from the United States, he was only getting two hours sleep a day because he was so stressed and overworked. Communication with family back home was also limited. There was internet onboard, but it wasn’t very good, the seafarer had said.

He was also concerned that the crew were no longer able to operate the vessel safely as they were exhausted.

Worried about the crew’s physical and mental wellbeing, and their safety, the Stella Maris team contacted the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), who visited the vessel on August 17. A vessel detention notice was served that afternoon.

Following that, the seafarers were able to go ashore for the first time in many months. They spent time relaxing at the South Tees Mission Centre. More good news was to follow, as 11 of the crew were repatriated to the Philippines on August 20.

The men had been through a lot and were struggling to cope, but fortunately, our Stella Maris ship visitors were present to check on them and find out about their trouble and inform the MCA and ITF so prompt action could be taken. They visited the crew, and offered advice, reassurance and encouragement throughout their ordeal. They also supplied SIM cards, clothing and chocolate, all of which they were grateful for.

Billy and Roger with some of the crew members