Concern for crew onboard arrested ship at H’tota port

By Leon Berenger

There is concern for the wellbeing of a 14-member foreign crew on board a Gibraltar-flagged vessel that was arrested on a court order following the non-payment of dues to a Chinese ship-building yard, an official of the International Transport workers Federation (ITF) said yesterday.

ITF Inspector, Ranjan Perera said that the vessel, presently berthed alongside the jetty at Hambantota Port, has an all-Russian crew, and there was no contact with them since the boat was arrested on August 19. He said the vessel, “Beluga Singapore” owned by Hansa Heavy Lift, a German company, is in the red to some US$ 7 million, or Rs 700 million, to a Chinese ship-building yard. The vessel was commissioned only last year, Mr. Perera said.

He added that the ITF office in London has already been informed and efforts were currently under way to make contact with the German owner. Director General- Merchant Shipping, A.W.H.S.S.R. Weerakoon told the Sunday Times that the crew onboard the vessel was in good health and there was nothing to be concerned of.

He said the vessel was arrested after the Chinese yard filed legal action in the Colombo Courts and now it was a matter for the ship owner to settle the issue. “The vessel, however, will not be released until the dues are met by the German owner”, Mr. Weerakoon said.

He said that any foreign company is within its right to file action through the legal system in the country, as it is the case with the ‘Beluga Singapore’. He added that, between seven to 10 foreign vessels are detained at the Colombo Port on a monthly basis for irregularities, mainly for the non-payment of dues for various sections.

Local representative for the ship, Praneeth Gunawardene of Maritime Agency, said the vessel had delivered two boats at the Colombo Port and that their connection with ‘Beluga Singapore’ ended there.
“At present, we have nothing to do with the vessel or its monetary obligations to the Chinese boatyard,” he said.

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