- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Philippine authorities said Wednesday they are working with U.S. officials to get shore leave for 17 Filipino seafarers whose ship has been stranded for months in Philadelphia due to mechanical and financial problems.

The men are in good spirits and have been receiving pay despite not being allowed off the cargo vessel Nikol H, according to a statement from the Philippine consulate general in New York.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection won’t allow the mariners to go ashore without proper visas. But the agency will consider any requests for humanitarian parole, said spokesman Steve Sapp.

The Nikol H, which is registered in the Marshall Islands, unloaded its cargo of cocoa beans in Philadelphia in April. During a routine inspection, the Coast Guard ordered it to make repairs before leaving.

Complaints filed since then in federal court in Philadelphia allege the ship has been unable to pay for the repairs and now owes local vendors more than $1 million for that work, plus wharf fees and other supplies. Federal authorities have detained the ship since May 23 so the case can be heard.

Lawyers for the ship’s U.S.-based operator did not return calls. A representative for its Greece-based owners couldn’t be reached for comment, though a spokeswoman for the ship’s registry company said negotiations are ongoing.

“The ship owner is working towards a solution and settlement with respect to the arrest of the vessel so that it can be released in a timely fashion once repairs are completed,” said Laura Sherman of Virginia-based International Registries Inc.

The Nikol H has 20 crew members, including two Ukrainians and an Egyptian captain, according to Philippine officials.

Some Filipinos have returned to their home country and been replaced by new seafarers who have the correct paperwork to go ashore, Sapp said. Other crew members’ visas might have expired during the ordeal, since they are generally valid for no more than 29 days.

The consulate general could not immediately clarify how many crew members have been repatriated to the Philippines. Sherman said 10 have been replaced.

Representatives of the local Seamen’s Church Institute have regularly visited the ship since it first docked in the Delaware River, said the Rev. Peter Stube, executive director of the mariner welfare organization.

The group has held Mass for Roman Catholic seafarers and provided items from phone cards to wireless hotspots to basketballs to keep up morale, Stube said. He also credited the captain with taking good care of the crew.

“Their captain was quite splendid, one of the best we’ve seen,” Stube said.

___

Follow Kathy Matheson at www.twitter.com/kmatheson


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide