INDIA. Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has ordered the auction sale of the Offshore Supply Vessel (OSV) “Ocean Explorer” abandoned by its owner off the Mumbai coast to recover the pending dues, including the salary of the stranded crew members.
As per the notice dated June 23 issued by Deputy Sheriff, Mumbai, the bids received by Sheriff’s office will be placed before the Bombay High Court on July 13, and the auction will be conducted after the scrutiny of the bids. The auction is expected to take place on July 16.
The issues like serving and executing processes such as Writ of Summons, notices, and warrants issued by the High Court and the City Civil Court are dealt with by the Sheriff of Mumbai. Besides, the implementation of the orders issued by the High Court under its “Admiralty jurisdiction” is done by the Sheriff.
The Deputy Sheriff has issued the auction notice in response to the Bombay High Court order dated June 21 in the Commercial Admiralty suit L (No 10715/2022) filed by the Syrian Captain of the vessel Mohammed Al Husseini and 17 others against the owners of OSV Ocean Explorer (IMO NO. 9303637).
The vessel was chartered by Mumbai-based M/s Lilly Maritime Private Limited for the Dubai-Mumbai trip from the shipping firm based in Dubai on “a Bare-Boat Charter” basis.
While Lilly Maritime Managing Director Rethina Kumar Krishnaswamy maintained that the vessel belonged to “Marine Four”, Dubai, the order dated April 01, passed by Justice N J Jamadar, mentioned “ Alam Maritim M SDN BHD” as the registered owner of the vessel. It was not clear whether “Marine Four” was affiliated with Alam Maritim (headquartered in Malaysia).
Speaking to the Transcontinental Times, Lilly Maritime Managing Director Retina Kumar Krishnaswamy said that there have been some difficulties, and the vessel was stranded, but she has not been abandoned. The Dubai-based owner may participate in the auction process to reclaim his vessel. When we hired the vessel, the crew members were mostly foreigners. Then we hired some Indian crew.
“Some of the crew members have been paid their dues and signed off. The stranded crew members are being provided fresh water and other basic amenities for their survival by the P & I Club located at Mumbai Port Trust. The matter should be resolved soon,” he added.
A “bareboat charter” is an arrangement for the chartering or hiring of a ship or boat, whereby no crew or provisions are included as part of the agreement. Instead, the people who rent the vessel from the owner are responsible for taking care of such things.
A Panama-flagged vessel was first anchored at Mumbai High when two crew members reported ill. The ill crew members were let off with their salaries in April. Along with them, nine others who completed the duty period were signed off too. The State Port Control authorities directed the vessel to anchor at Princess & Victoria channel at Mumbai Port after the remaining seven crew members complained of not receiving salaries since November 2021.
In the original petition, the petitioners Mohammed Al Husseini and others had pointed out that they were stranded on board the vessel and an amount of US$ 109,205.48, including the principal sum of US$ 104,181 towards their wages, along with interest and costs, was due from the owner.
Given the complaints, Justice N J Jamadar, in his order dated April 1, stated that “I order the arrest of the defendant-vessel “OSV Ocean Explorer” a foreign-flagged vessel together with her hull, tackle, engines, gears, plant, machinery, articles, things apparel, and other paraphernalia on board, at present lying at the Port of Mumbai within Indian territorial waters”.
Abhijeet Single, Working President of All India Seafarers Union, said that the matter will be clear only after the vessel is sold in the auction. When a ship is under arrest, the court ensures that salary is distributed to the crew from the money received on selling the vessel. In this process, it is the responsibility of the Sheriff’s office to look after the affected crew.
Deputy Sheriff Durgadas S. Choudhari could not be reached for comments. The Sheriff, a titular position, is vacant since the Maharashtra Government has not appointed anyone as a Sheriff of Mumbai for the last many years.
Pramod Suhag, President, Seafarers Support Group, Mumbai, said that his group arranged the sign-off formalities of the ill crew members. The others also need financial assistance. The money due to the seafarers includes Surya Deshwal- AB-pending salary- US $2000, Boban-Oiler- US $ 1800, and Nishant-Cook- US $2000.
The onboard chief engineer Ravikumar Kaliveetil said that the Ocean Explorer is an Anchor Handling Tug Supply (AHTS) vessel, and its main engines are nonoperational. Another machinery has also broken down. The ship is unseaworthy, and the crew fears for their lives in the monsoon, as both engines of the ship are nonoperational.