THE crew of a vessel detained at the Port of Tyne in South Shields face a very real prospect of spending Christmas in the town, thousands of miles away from their loved ones, it has emerged.
Members of the crew of the Panama-registered bulk carrier Donald Duckling were so poorly fed they were forced to fish from the vessel and burn loose wood on deck to cook their meals.
The ship, picking up scrap metal and bound for Korea, was detained by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency this week after an inspection revealed a long list of safety concerns, and it will not be allowed to leave the Tyne until “mechanical and safety issues” are resolved.
Now members of its 16-strong Filipino and Romanian crew, who had regularly gone unpaid, are awaiting the arrival of a representative from the ship’s owner, Taiwan-based TMT, to reveal their fate.
In the meantime, they are receiving support from the Mission to Seafarers in South Shields.
Mission manager Diane Erskine said: “It is quite possible that the crew could still be here for Christmas.
“If that is the case, we would be cooking them Christmas lunch. There are no facilities on the vessel.
“Because of what’s happening in their homeland, many of the Filipinos have been using the internet here to try to get information.
“A representative of TMT is expected to visit them on Monday, but there is no way the vessel will be allowed to leave until all that’s wrong with it is put right. That could be some time. We may need to appeal to a local supermarket to support them.”
Filipino crew member Joewars Fetalco, 40, has revealed that 40 members of his wife’s family are missing in his homeland after Typhoon Haiyan.
Mr Fetalco, from Manila, said: “The conditions on the vessel were terrible and we were fishing and eating squid, every day.
“I became ill in Las Palmas and was taken to hospital. This is something I will never forget.
“It was a very difficult situation and now I am trying to find out what is happening back home.
“Forty of my wife’s cousins, uncles and aunties are missing. I need to find work to help my family back home.”
His colleague, Romel Maximo, 37, also from Manila, added: “It was a very hard experience on the ship. The conditions were bad and there was no food.
“We ended up fishing off the side of the boat. I also haven’t been paid my salary for October.
“I want to thank the Mission here in South Shields for helping me. I have used the internet to contact my wife back in Manila. Thankfully she is well, as are our three children.”