18 Vietnamese crew members marooned for months in Thailand Gulf

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Crew members on a broken-down Vietnamese cargo vessel have been afloat on Thailand's sea for more than two months with little aid sent by the ship's owner.

The sailors phoned Thanh Nien newspaper's Thailand bureau in Bangkok Thursday to request help as fuel, electricity, food and freshwater were about to run out for the 18 people onboard.

The cargo ship DT18, which was carrying 3,300 tons of rice en route from Bangkok to Pasir Gudang in Malaysia, broke down on July 22 off the shore of Bang Saphan town in Thailand's Prachuap Khirikhan province.

The ship's first engineer, Nguyen Manh Thanh, said ship owner Khanh Thien Company in Dong Thap Province failed to dispatch support for nearly a month despite being entreated many times by the crew.

"They left us at sea on a broken vessel for almost a month with just empty promises," Thanh said.

The ship's captain, who requested anonymity, said Khanh Thien Company finally hired a ship to pull the cargo ship to waters two nautical miles off the port of Bang Saphan town on August 20.

The company then sent its people to examine the problem on August 22, but has since failed to return or offer any solutions, Thanh said.

According to the ship's engineer, the company had paid a Thai logistics company to transport second officer Dao Quang Han to a Thai hospital when he fell badly ill, but has only sent the crew a total sum of US$2,000, which was far short of what was necessary to buy enough food, water and medicine. The crew had to pay $200 apiece for entrance fees for each visit to Thailand's shore.

"The rice we are carrying is becoming moldy. The life boat's engine has also malfunctioned so we can't get to shore, I don't know how we can survive the next few days," Thanh said.

"If the company fails to repair the ship, they should take us home," a sailor said. "We can't stand to be stranded onboard like this."

Vice Director of Khanh Thien Company, Nguyen Van Van, Friday confirmed the facts and said the company had leased the ship to Trai Thien Company in Ho Chi Minh City.

However, the staff at Trai Thien Company said the company director and vice director are away and they lacked the authority to give any answers.

Ngo Si Thin, director of Van Xuan Company, the labor broker company who had provided sailors for the ship, said Friday he would work with Trai Thien Company to aid the ship's crew.

He said the broker company had earlier requested Khanh Thien Company several times to resolve the problem, but the latter have failed to proffer a viable solution.

Reported by Viet Phuong

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