Embattled Vietnam shipping firm debts leave 20 crew hostage in Pakistan

TN News

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Crew members of the New Horizon in Karachi, Pakistan, in a photo they sent to the Vietnamese media along with pleas for help

The crew of a ship belonging to troubled state shipper Vinalines has been held in Pakistan for the last two months since the company owes money to its partners in that country.

In emails to Vietnamese newspapers, the men said they are running out of food and fuel after being stuck at Karachi port since early November and their passports were seized.

The New Horizon, owned by Vinashinlines, a subsidiary of Vinalines, left northern Vietnam in early July and went to several other countries before arriving in Pakistan.

They have also sent many emails to the company, but to no avail. They are not allowed to enter the port any more.

They have been using firewood to cook but have almost run out of it.

Nguyen Que Duong, general director of Vinashinlines, told Thanh Nien his company is planning to send some money to the men, but its financial situation does not allow it to pay the debtors and release the boat.

"One solution is to sell the boat right there, but we have not been able to do that either."

The firm would not be able to pay the crew members' salaries either, he said. The sailors have said they are owed six to 12 months' wages.

The crew said in an email to Lao Dong newspaper last month that they just wish to be home for Tet (Lunar New Year) in five weeks' time, but it seems unlikely they can.

"The most realistic hope right now is for some fuel to run appliances on the boat and that the company will send one or two months' salaries to our families for Tet," the email said.

Six other vessels belonging to the company are stuck in various foreign ports for similar reasons.

The crew of the New Phoenix is in China with little energy in minus 15 degrees Celsius weather.

Vinashinlines was transferred to Vinalines from shipbuilder Vinashin, which nearly went bankrupt after piling up debts of US$4.5 billion in 2010.

But Vinalines is in little better shape with debts of more than VND43 trillion (more than $2 billion), according to a government report last June.

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