SSh­hi­ipp wwiitthh 1188 FFi­il­li­ip­pi­in­nooss sst­tr­raan­nd­deedd iinn UU..SS..

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

A Greek-owned cargo ship with an Egyp­tian cap­tain, one Ukrainian and 18 Filipino sea­men has been stranded in the Delaware River for nearly three months be­cause its owner has not paid bills since April and the U.S. Coast Guard is de­mand­ing op­er­a­tional re­pairs, U.S. press re­ports said.

The Nikol H, reg­is­tered in the Mar­shall Is­lands, needs ad­di­tional re­pairs be­fore sail­ing, and the own­ers, Derna Ship­ping, al­legedly owe as much as $1.2 mln. Ven­dors and oth­ers have sued to re­cover costs for pro­vid­ing fuel, food and sup­plies while the ship has been in the U.S., ac­cord­ing to the Philadel­phia Inquirer.

The orig­i­nal crew mem­bers’ visas ex­pired and they are not per­mit­ted to go ashore. How­ever, sev­eral orig­i­nal crew, whose con­tracts ex­pired, re­ceived U.S. Cus­toms “paroles” to go home. Even those with visas can’t get off the ship be­cause the ship is in the mid­dle of the river and there’s no easy ac­cess to trans­porta­tion.

The Sea­men’s Church In­sti­tute, which reg­u­larly greets sea­far­ers whose ships dock in ports along the Delaware, has pro­vided the sailors with cell phones to call home, In­ter­net ser­vice and chap­lain vis­its, ac­cord­ing to the Inquirer.

The crew mem­bers are get­ting paid and re­ceive pro­vi­sions from the ship agent, G.M. Richards En­ter­prises. The ship gen­er­a­tors work and there is air-con­di­tion­ing.

“Morale is OK,” Capt. Ali Af­far told the Inquirer. “We don’t have any prob­lems. We re­ceive also fresh wa­ter sup­ply. Hope­fully, the crew will feel bet­ter af­ter the ship berths and they have a chance to visit ashore.”

The saga be­gan on April 11 when the Nikol H, owned by an op­er­at­ing com­pany in Pi­raeus, dis­charged 13,521 tons of co­coa beans in Philadel­phia.

The Coast Guard, which in­spects ar­riv­ing ships, cited the Nikol for op­er­a­tional de­fi­cien­cies and or­dered the ves­sel not to sail un­til re­pairs were made. The ship re­mained at the pier for more than a month, un­til it was cleared by the Coast Guard.

On May 23, De­pend­able Dis­tri­bu­tion Ser­vices, the op­er­a­tor at Pier 84, sued in fed­eral court, seek­ing to “ar­rest” or stop the ship from leav­ing for fail­ure to pay nearly $300,000 in wharfage, steve­dor­ing and other fees for the six weeks it had been docked for re­pairs.

Other sup­pli­ers, the ship agent, and a time-char­ter firm joined the law­suit, say­ing they also were owed money.

Two weeks ago, the Coast Guard re­turned to the ship and found en­gine and other prob­lems, which it wanted cor­rected.

The owner, Derna Car­ri­ers S.A., claims not to have the money to pay, Philadel­phia mar­itime lawyer Al­fred Kuf­fler told the judge. “The only one with money is the bank.”

Bre­mer Lan­des­bank in Ger­many holds the mort­gage on the Nikol, and the own­ers are in de­fault, ac­cord­ing to court pa­pers.

Philadel­phia mar­itime lawyer Mary Elisa Reeves said in court that her client, the bank, was will­ing to pay for “ne­ces­si­ties,” but dis­puted the fee by De­pend­able Ser­vices and the claim by the time-char­ter com­pany. Reeves asked the judge to sever, or sep­a­rate, the “ne­ces­si­ties” claims from the oth­ers.

While the drama plays out, the Nikol and its crew sit in the Delaware. The law­suit de­mands, as a last re­sort, that the ship be auc­tioned. Another Derna ves­sel was de­tained by the UK Mar­itime and Coast­guard Agency (MCA) in Jan­uary af­ter fail­ing Port State Con­trol (PSC) in­spec­tion.

The 7,700 gross tonne ISIS, also reg­is­tered in the Mar­shall Is­lands had ten de­fi­cien­cies and four grounds for de­ten­tion, in­clud­ing safety fea­tures, in­op­er­a­ble radar and below stan­dard equip­ment.

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