Shipping disputes and suicides at sea are a global issue

Charities and human rights groups say as many as 500 vessels can be anchored offshore from the UAE at any time

Shipping disputes that expose vulnerable seafarers to drawn-out legal cases that leave them stranded at sea without pay are not exclusive to the UAE.

Reports in the UK claim 15 Indian crew working on oilfields in the North Sea have been abandoned for seven months in poor living conditions on a supply vessel near Great Yarmouth, on the east coast of England.

It is the latest example of how shipping companies, paying lower wages, hire workers to fulfil the mandatory legal requirements for crew.

In June, a 16-man crew of Indian and Pakistani sailors were trapped on board the 330-metre MT Zoya 1 awaiting clearance to come ashore off the Sharjah coast, a similar case to that of the crew on the MV Azraqmoiah container ship.

Charities and human rights groups said as many as 500 vessels can be anchored offshore from the UAE at any time, waiting to load cargo, unload, or switch crews.

Of those, only a small percentage ever become embroiled in any kind of legal dispute, usually over unpaid contracts. But it can leave scores of sailors exposed.

The UK P&I Club, a leading shipping insurer, reported suicides at sea increased from 4.4 per cent in 2014 to 15.3 per cent in 2017.

The Missing Seafarers & Fishers Reporting Programme is a register to build an accurate international database of the numbers and status of seafarers and fishermen missing or lost at sea, anywhere in the world. It can be accessed via the Human Rights at Sea group's webpage.