A Special Warfare Support vessel, MV Ocean Trader exploded into flames in July 2021, commanded by Capt. Santosh Kumar at Jebel Ali Port. The International Transport Workers’ Federation(ITF) has been monitoring the case. They have urged the UAE government to allow the captain to return back to his family on humanitarian grounds.
MV Ocean Trader caught fire and exploded just after it was being loaded at the port, which caused trembles in the building and windows even as far as 25 km from the incident site. Fortunately, there was no causality. ITF’s Inspectorate Coordinator Steve Trowsdale said, “Captain Santosh Kumar is a hero.” He stated that a crew member saw the smoke coming out of the container just after it was loaded. The captain was warned and he evacuated the ship at the stroke of time and the rescue team was called.
“He acted quickly and probably saved many lives, however, the fact that he has been held for more than six months now suggests that Dubai authorities consider him a suspect, which isn’t the case and he should be allowed to go back home.” The investigation took place immediately after the incident and the captain was interviewed by the police with several other crew members. The entire crew was kept in a nearby hotel while the formalities were carried out.
Thirteen members of the Ocean Trader’s crew were repatriated on November 28, 2021, except Captain Santosh Kumar. He was transferred to a room that he continues to share with three strangers, with no indication of how much more he’ll be kept in detention. “The flag, the owner, and the manager all have responsibilities regarding the crew,” Trowsdale explained. “I wrote to all three in this case and only received a response from the managers, who stated that the owner is responsible.”
The Ocean Trader is registered in Comoros, a group of small islands in north of Madagascar. Comoros is on the ITF’s official list of Flags of Convenience — where ships are registered to avoid taxes, regulations, and various labour standards. The ship is owned by Sash Shipping Corp, a Panamanian company, and managed by Inzu Ship Charter LLC, based in the United Arab Emirates. “Typically, Comoros ignores requests over the ships it registers,” Trowsdale said, “Even when there is a clear and urgent need for humanitarian action.”
Since March 2021, none of the 14 crew members has been properly compensated. The ITF estimates that more than US$93,000 is owed, and this figure is expected to rise while Captain Kumar remains in Dubai.
“It is unfair and unreasonable to withhold their pay, regardless of the circumstances of the ship,” Trowsdale stated. “All of these people’s basic human rights have been woefully ignored, and yet the flag, the ship’s owners, and the police in Dubai are all allowing the situation to continue.” Trowsdale requested, “Let’s think about Santosh Kumar and his family. Let’s get him home.”