Ship’s crew stranded 45 days in har­bor

Tanker deemed un­sea­wor­thy af­ter se­ri­ous en­gine fail­ure

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Ian Dun­can Bal­ti­more Sun re­searcher Paul McCardell and the As­so­ci­ated Press con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle. idun­can@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/idun­can

A cargo ship and its in­ter­na­tional crew have been stranded in the Bal­ti­more har­bor for 45 days af­ter the ves­sel had se­ri­ous en­gine prob­lems and the Coast Guard deemed it un­safe to sail.

The crew of the MT Newlead Granadino — 14 Filipinos, three Ro­ma­ni­ans and a Greek cook — needed to drink wa­ter that had con­densed on the ship’s air con­di­tioner and fish over the side to sup­ple­ment wan­ing ra­tions be­fore a re­lief effort be­gan, ac­cord­ing to an or­ga­ni­za­tion that rep­re­sents sailors.

Bar­bara Ship­ley, an in­spec­tor with the In­ter­na­tional Trans­porta­tion Work­ers Fed­er­a­tion, said NewLead Hold­ings Ltd., the Greek com­pany that owns the ship, is in fi­nan­cial dis­tress and un­able to pay for the $1 mil­lion or more in re­pairs needed to make the ship sea­wor­thy.

“They were un­able to care for the ves­sel,” Ship­ley said. “They didn’t have the money to send pro­vi­sions to the ves­sel.”

Elisa Ger­ouki, a spokes­woman for NewLead, said the ship’s break­down has left the Eigh­teen crew mem­bers of Newlead Granadino have been stranded near Cur­tis Bay since the ves­sel was deemed un­sea­wor­thy. com­pany fac­ing un­ex­pected costs, but said the firm re­mains in con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion. NewLead is work­ing with a French bank that holds a mort­gage on the ship to reach a res­o­lu­tion, she said.

“The man­age­ment of the com­pany took the de­ci­sion to stop the ves­sel from con­tin­u­ing trad­ing in or­der to en­sure the safety of the crew on board,” Ger­ouki said in a state­ment. “NewLead’s man­age­ment­de­ci­sion was taken in or­der to pro­tect life and well-be­ing of the crew on board the ves­sel which is of pri­mary and ut­most im­por­tance to the com­pany.”

The prob­lems be­gan when the 368-foot as­phalt tanker had a se­ri­ous en­gine fail­ure near Bal­ti­more. The Coast Guard in­spected the ship Sept. 20 and de­ter­mined the Newlead Granadino had safety vi­o­la­tions and or­dered it de­tained, said Petty Of­fi­cer Barry Bena, a Coast Guard spokesman.

The ves­sel has been an­chored in the Pat­ap­sco River, west of the Key Bridge.

NewLead has faced other prob­lems in re­cent months. Its CEO re­signed in late Oc­to­ber due to a “strictly per­sonal le­gal mat­ter,” the com­pany an­nounced, and an­other one of its ships was auc­tioned off in Sa­van­nah, Ga., in Au­gust. U.S. mar­shals had de­tained that ship in April af­ter some of NewLead’s cred­i­tors sued in fed­eral court over un­paid debts. The cred­i­tors de­scribed NewLead in their law­suit as “lit­tle more than a hol­low shell.”

NewLead’s lawyers de­nied the al­le­ga­tions in court, but a judge or­dered the ship sold.

In that case, too, the ship’s crew was left stranded, the ship at an­chor off the Ge­or­gia coast, but they were paid and fed by the cred­i­tors in the case.

Ship­ley said it’s not un­com­mon for sailors to get caught in the mid­dle of fi­nan­cial dis­putes in­volv­ing ship­ping com­pa­nies.

In the 1990s, a Yu­gosla­vian ship, the Dur­mi­tor, was stuck in Bal­ti­more for five years, caught up in the pol­i­tics sur­round­ing the war in Bos­nia. The ship’s owner ro­tated in crews who spent long, bor­ing stretches aboard.

The Newlead Granadino’s crew, who de­clined to be in­ter­viewed, can­not leave the ship. Some of them don’t have visas, and En­rico Esopa, an of­fi­cial with the In­ter­na­tional Trans­porta­tion Work­ers Fed­er­a­tion, said if the crew were to leave, they would give up any hope of get­ting back wages they are still owed.

Ger­ouki said NewLead still in­tends to pay the crew.

For now, char­i­ties and vol­un­teers have been help­ing keep the sailors fed. The Sea­far­ers In­ter­na­tional Union and the Bal­ti­more In­ter­na­tional Sea­far­ers Cen­ter are col­lect­ing dona­tions to sup­port the crew.

Aid also has come from more un­usual quar­ters. Af­ter hear­ing about the prob­lems on the news, the crew from the themed har­bor tour com­pany Ur­ban Pi­rates gath­ered sup­plies and sailed out to the Newlead Granadino on their own ship, the Fear­less.

“They were very, very, very happy to see us,” said Kyle Dembowski, a man­ager at Ur­ban Pi­rates. “We’re rolling up in a pi­rate ship; it’s kind of an odd thing.”

JERRY JACK­SON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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