Bamadev Swain’s children have not seen their father for more than a year.
“When my daughter asks my wife ‘when is papa coming?’ it is really painful for me,” he says.
He is one of a dozen men who have been marooned aboard the supply ship Malaviya Seven in Aberdeen since October.
The sailors have not been paid by their employer, Indian shipping giant GOL Offshore, for a year.
The crew of predominantly Indian nationals found themselves stuck when maritime authorities detained the vessel in Aberdeen due to unpaid wages.
It began an ordeal for the sailors that the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has branded an “absolute scandal”.
The ship will not be allowed to leave Aberdeen until its crew is paid.
They are owed £668,000 according to a court ruling made in Aberdeen on August 10.Crew members have been largely confined to the ship due to not having the necessary travel documents to be in the UK.
They have become increasingly reliant on the goodwill of Aberdeen locals for food, with the city’s Christian community looking after them at Christmas.
Chief officer Mr Swain told STV News how his family in India had to take out high-interest loans to get by, wiping out his wife’s savings.
GOL Offshore has never publicly explained why it failed to pay its crewmen in 12 months and lawyers representing the sailors announced they would be taking legal action against the company in March.
“We didn’t realise that things would go so bad,” crew member Clay Vaz, who had worked for the company for 29 years, told STV in June.
“I have two children, one boy, one girl. It’s been really sad for us.”His wife told Mumbai-based newspaper Mid-Day how she had had to sell off her gold jewellery to pay her daughter’s college fees.Mr Vas’ salaries first started coming in late three years ago before eventually stopping altogether.
‘We can see the finish line’
On Thursday, a sheriff in Aberdeen ruled the crew have the right to sell the vessel in order to recoup their wages.
It is a step towards a resolution on what has been a long and difficult journey.Initially, they had hoped to be home before the new year.
Following the decision, ITF UK and Ireland coordinator Ken Fleming said: “We can’t turn around and describe it as a victory. It’s an end to a scandal.”We’ve moved to a point now where we can see the finish line.”
Marooned: Crew have become increasingly despondent.
In June 2016, the ship was detained at the same harbour for the same reason after it was contracted for work by BP.
The situation was resolved comparatively quickly that time, with GOL Offshore paying the crew’s overdue wages of around £175,000 by August, allowing ship and crew to leave.
Then, last October, the Malayvia Seven returned to Aberdeen after being hired by a European oil company and was detained again – this time for a far longer stay.
The ITF says at times more than half of the non-UK vessels in the North Sea employ crew on less than the UK minimum wage of £6.70 an hour.
But often they are not paid at all, with sailors aboard a third of the 17 non-UK North Sea vessels inspected by the ITF in Scotland in 2016 owed money.
Speaking anonymously last November, when the rest of the crew of the Malayvia Seven, a crew member told STV News: “Nobody knows when we will be paid. Nobody knows when we will go home.”Now, following Aberdeen Sheriff Court’s ruling on Thursday, it is hoped the end is in sight.
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