Placed under arrest by the Port Trust, the ship is also under arbitration at the Bombay HC for unpaid bills of several vendors.

Forty-two seafarers have refused to disembark a cruiseliner caught in a legal tangle and abandoned by its owners for all practical purposes for almost a month now, fearing they will not be paid their dues if they left the ship.

The crew of M V Karnika operated by Jalesh Cruises late on Friday said they had power back-up to last only 36 hours, after which they will not be able to even charge their mobile phones. For the past week or so, they have survived on cornflakes for breakfast, paani-puri for lunch and burgers for dinner as food stock is depleting fast.

Director General, Shipping, Amitabh Kumar, said the dire situation onboard M V Karnika has been brought to his notice. “I received complaints on Thursday about non-payment of dues to the crew. The situation is quite bad. I will send officers of my Marine Mercantile Department to the ship to conduct an investigation,” he said.

Apart from being placed under arrest by the Bombay Port Trust following non-payment of dues, the cruiseliner is also under arbitration at the Bombay High Court because of unpaid bills to vendors. The crew members, who were called to carry routine maintenance, after the ship docked in August were kept in the dark about the legal troubles by Mumbai, Khar-based Campbell Shipping Pvt Ltd, which holds the recruitment and placements services license for the vessel.

With no ACs or ceiling fans, the cruiseliner, said a crew member, has turned into a hot plate

The crew has not been paid since August and according to them the total arrears stand at over $ 227986 (roughly Rs 1.66 crore). Renold Albert Correia, 40, from Vasai, who is employed as an engine fitter on the ship, said he has two kids –eight and five. “My father calls me every day. There are expenses to be met. These are anyways tough times. I can’t even go home and be with my family. If I leave the ship, I will never get my arrears,” he said.

With no air-conditioners or ceiling fans operating, the lavish cruiseliner, said Vikrant Thakur, a crew member, has turned into a hot plate.

Thakur, 28, a resident of Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh, who works as engine utility, said the crew is unable to follow any safety protocols because of lack of power. “If a cyclone hits, we will be sitting ducks,” he said.

The crew at a meeting

The crew at a meeting

Sayeed Anwar, 37, a resident of Vashi, who is employed as a fitter, said the company promised him $1,910 (roughly Rs 1.39 lakh) a month. “I have not been paid a penny. My biggest fear is a blackout and we are just 36 hours from it. It is a scary situation,” he said. As per the Seafarer’s Agreement, a sailor’s salary must be credited before the 30th of every month.

Crew members said the ship’s executive committee comprising the master, the chief officer and the chief engineer had a conference call with managers of Campbell Shipping on September 25 where everybody was advised to be patient. However, on Wednesday word arrived that all payments will be decided by the court.

In a statement released late on Friday evening, M V Karnika said the dues of vendors mounted because of the devastation wrought upon the cruise industry by the Covid-19 pandemic. “Operations were at a standstill since March, leading to mounting debts. These creditors arrested the ship through the Admiralty Court,” the statement said, adding that the management “would like to reassure the crew and their families that we have not forgotten about them. We have asked for urgent indulgence with the relevant authorities and are waiting for their feedback. In addition, we assure our crew members that they will receive their salaries as soon as the funds are received. Main priority is to reunite the crew with their families.”

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