The Seafarers Alcatraz Award 2012

1 Oct 2012

 The prestigious newspaper of the shipping world, the Lloyd’s List, has just attributed its awards for 2012. The “seafarer” award was attributed to the Costa Concordia’s crew.

The NGO, Robin des Bois (Robin Hood), based in Paris, would like to glorify the most dignified of the shipping community with a new prize that nobody would want to receive, the Alcatraz Award. The Seafarers Alcatraz Award could be attributed to a member of the shipping world, who, by its actions or lack of actions, inflicts upon seafarers, malnutrition, remoteness and exile. In 2012 it is attributed jointly to the port of Chennai in India and to South Korea for their leading parts in the sordid affair of the OSM Arena. Article 99 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea prohibits the transportation of slaves, however it does not prevent seafarers from being treated as slaves.

 OMS-Arena-Robin-des-Bois-2012The OSM Arena is a prison for seafarers. January 2012 © Bijoy Ghosh

In January 2010, the OSM Arena, 190 m in length, bulk carrier, built in 1985 in Japan, flying the South Korean flag, docked in the port of Chennai, in the South of India near Pondicherry. Under a decision by the Indian Courts, the OSM Arena was seized, all paraphernalia included, hull, 400 t of fuel and the crewmembers. The South Korean ship-owner is implicated in numerous commercial legal disputes concerning bills of lading and unpaid debts.

In December 2010, the Chennai port administration ordered the vessel to anchor off the coast of the port; the cost of berthing has not been paid, it is raised to up to 93,000 rupees a day (1,800 $).

In July 2011, the crewmembers of the OSM Arena were replaced; most of the members were in an alarming state due to malnutrition and dehydration 12 Burmese sailors replaced them.

In December 2012, impacted by the cyclone Thane, the OSM Arena drifted and stranded off the beach. She was towed to safety by two tugs and was once again anchored 2 miles off the coastline outside of the Chennai port, in an improvised, temporary waiting area. The crew is imprisoned onboard.

Today, early October 2012, notwithstanding the assistance given to the new crewmembers, by the ITF (International Transport Workers Federation), they are in poor health and sanitary conditions. Concerning the vessel, it is left to face the risk of cyclones and other menacing weather conditions. The Chennai port is still refusing the OSM Arena access to its infrastructures and quays. With the same argument, that the vessel does not have the funds to pay the port taxes. To date, the ordeal has been going on for fourteen months.

Robin des Bois unanimously attributes to the Chennai port for its inhumane treatment and to South Korea for its lack of action to replace the defaulting ship-owners based in Seoul the Seafarers Alcatraz Award 2012.





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