A nun provided rags to clean the engine on a cargo ship because the crew had no money to buy them, as they had not been paid for nearly three months.
Sister Marian Davey, Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) chaplain to the Haven East Anglia ports, was asked by a Special Branch officer to visit a general cargo ship in Ipswich because he was concerned about the welfare of the crew following a routine visit.
When she went onboard, she was told by an angry crew that they hadn’t been paid for nearly three months.
“The chief engineer said that he had no rags to clean the oil from the engine. So I went and bought some sheets in a charity shop. I also mentioned the problem to a port worker and he gave me two bags of compressed rags,” she said.
The Guild of Benevolence of IMarEST (Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology) provided AoS with an emergency grant to buy those working in the engine room new overalls.
Following negotiations between the ITF and the shipping company the crew were eventually paid up until the end of August. But they then spent 37 days anchored two miles off Felixstowe waiting for new orders.
“The cook contacted me to say that they had very little fresh water, which meant they couldn’t shower or use the toilet or wash their clothes. They also had no cigarettes or TV. Being in these conditions on a small ship puts a crew under serious psychological stress,” she said.
When the ship returned to Ipswich she provided the crew with bread and fresh vegetables and also phone cards and top-ups so they could contact their families back home in Russia and Cape Verde.
But the company again failed to pay the crew their next month’s salary on time.
“When a crew isn’t paid it also affects their families. One of the crew said to me, ‘My children can’t eat stones.’ Another member of the crew had medical bills to pay,” Sister Marian said.
Following further negotiations between the ITF and the shipping company the crew eventually received their last salary before returning home.
“I think this practice is becoming more widespread in the shipping industry. When owners find themselves under financial pressure paying the crew ceases to be a priority.”