The Nigerian vessel in which the Guyanese crew members have been holed up in since 2013, off Trinidad, demanding they be paid.
UNITED Nations International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea judge, Anthony Lucky, has hailed the decision of the local court to arrest the Nigerian ship, MT Tumini, in favour of the five Guyanese crew members who have been holed up in the vessel since 2013.
“It is a landmark decision for this country; a commendable move by the local courts, to arrest a Nigerian vessel for whatever breach it was,” said Lucky who is based in Hamburg, Germany where he presides as a judge in cases relating to the conflicts between countries on sea matters.
The MT Tumini has been docked off the Trinidad Cement Limited’s Claxton Bay jetty for the past four years, apparently abandoned by its owners in Nigeria.
The crew, who are all Guyanese nationals, decided to stay on board until they are paid their wages and for securing the ship for its owners. It is not the first time that a ship was arrested by the court.
Lucky reminded that in 1996, while presiding as a judge of the High Court, he made an order in an Admiralty action filed by the officers and crew of the foreign tanker “Duchess” which was docked off the Port of Spain jetty.
Lucky granted leave to arrest the ship so that the officers and crew could be paid. In commenting on the order of Justice Devendra Rampersad, the judge told Newsday that if and when the MV Tumini is sold, the money would be paid into the court and the obligation in disbursing payments, would be first, to the crew members on board.
Under Admirality Law, Lucky said, the first obligation is for the crew to be paid their wages.
The International Law of the Sea judge said that had the ship not been arrested via the action taken by the agent and the crew, the matter could have become one for consideration by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Lucky said, “I must commend the judge and the local courts for taking a step in the right direction. It will enhance our development in dealing with such matters.”
In the judge’s order, the MT Tumini is to be sold in the next nine months, failing which, the court will sell the vessel by private auction.
The crew named as claimants in the action are: Gerald Andrews (agent) Rakesh Jim (Chief Officer); Foy (not Roy) Fredericks (Chief Engineer); Lawrence Daniel (second Engineer); Mohamed Gadwah (second officer); Neil Rampersaud (Assistant Engineer/ oiler). They were hired in July 2013 by Echo Bank who took over management of the vessel in a mortgage from the previous owner.
But the MT Tumini needed repairs and was docked off Trinidad Cement Limited jetty in Claxton Bay.
In 2015, the men claimed that they were owed approximately US$400,000 in wages. First claimant Andrews, a marine consultant of Maraval, who was the local agent for the MT Tumini, outlined in an affidavit details about the vessel, in which he stated that following a mortgage between the vessel’s first ower, Petroleum Brokers Limited and Echo Bank, the latter became owner. The claimants name Echo Bank of Lagos, Nigeria, as the defendant.
The vessel’s Chief Mate, Jim, also filed an affidavit, in which he contended that he is responsible for the crew and that since no “Certificate of Discharge” had not been entered by the vessel’s owners, they are obliged to remain on the ship, maintain it, as well as protect its’ contents.
Jim stated that the class of the vessel requires that 12 persons man the ship.
He also stated that Echo Bank had appointed Tri-Continental Oil Services Ltd, a Nigerian company operating in Trinidad, to represents its interest in respect of the vessel.
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