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Stricken ship ‘could be stranded for years’

ABANDONED VESSEL ... stranded crew members of the detained Donald Duckling hoist supplies and a television on board.

ABANDONED VESSEL ... stranded crew members of the detained Donald Duckling hoist supplies and a television on board.

THE Donald Duckling bulk carrier could be stranded at the Port of Tyne in South Shields “for years”, a shipping inspector has warned.

Crew members on the Panamanian-registered carrier were so poorly fed they were forced to fish off the side of the vessel and burn loose wood on the deck to cook their food.

Because of the poor conditions on board, the ship has been detained at the port by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency for the last two weeks ago.

Now it has been officially declared an “abandoned vessel” after owner TMT Shipping of Taiwan failed to provide the crew with food, water, heat, lighting - or pay their wages.

“All efforts” are ongoing to resolve the situation, said Tommy Molloy, an inspector with Nautilus International Transport Workers’ Federation, with “political pressure” being placed on the Panamanian authorities to take action.

“We are trying to ensure that they adhere to their obligations,” he said, but admitted that the vessel could remain in the port “for years”.

He added: “In theory it could be there for years.

“We’ve had ships and crews stranded for a very long time in ports before in similar situations but obviously we want to resolve this as soon as possible and we are trying to bring it to a head.”

Meanwhile, the region has come together in support of stranded seafarers.

The 18-strong largely Filipino crew have been left in limbo, unaware of when they will be able to return back to their devastated homeland.

But in the midst of the saga, the response from seafarers and non-seafarers alike has been “brilliant”, said Diane Erskine, manager at the Mission to Seafarers, which has been providing support to the crew.

Bosses at the BT headquarters at Harton Staithes at South Shields have donated a television, the fishing vessel The Success has been dropping off freshly caught lobsters and crabs, and there has been a donation of 20 kilos of rice from Asda in South Shields.

The port has also supplied fuel for a generator on board after the crew faced an electrical ‘blackout’ every night at 10pm.

Diane said: “The response has been brilliant. It’s lovely that people are turning up at the vessel with carrier bags full of food, but the crew have very specific dietary needs. They eat a lot of rice and use a lot of spices.

“Instead of bringing food that might be wasted, we’d encourage donations of money which we can use to take them along to Ahmeds store at Laygate.”

Anyone who wants to make a donation to help the stranded seafarers can contact Diane on 075534 53190.

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul

 

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