Sailors say Dubai firm withholding their salaries

DUBAI // A group of merchant seamen in Pakistan have accused a Dubai shipping company of withholding their pay for six months.

Syed Farhan Ali said he and his colleagues were hired by a recruitment agent in Karachi to work on a ship in Nigeria for six months, preparing it to be taken to India where it was to be sold for scrap.

Mr Ali said the men joined the vessel in three groups, between April and mid-June last year.

"Those who joined at the end of April received two months' salary and those who joined in June received only one month's salary," he said."It was paid in August and September 2011.

"In the last week of December 2011 the owner asked our captain to hand over our passports to an agent in Lagos, Nigeria, where the ship was anchored.They promised us our salaries when we reached the hotel to catch a flight back home. But salaries were never paid."

The seamen have since returned to Pakistan.

"The captain even went to Dubai to talk to the owner and get the salaries, but he has not been cooperating with us," said Mr Ali.

Hafeez Ur Rahman, a chief officer on the ship, said the crew members' families had been living without pay for about 10 months.

"We don't know who to approach or how to solve the matter," said Mr Rahman. "One man's father died because he could not arrange money for his heart surgery."

The owner of the shipping company said the men did not work for his firm and he had nothing to do with the issue.

"We have not recruited anyone to work for our company," he said. "What they are saying is not true."

A document of sale shows the Dubai owner sold the ship in January last year, but the seamen insist it was in his possession for the duration of their employment.

They have approached the International Transport Workers Federation in the UK and Flying Angel, a charitable organisation in Dubai that helps distressed seafarers, to resolve the matter.

Neither organisation could be reached for comment.

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