THE CHAIN LOCKER
MV Iceberg 1 website home page - click to go there
A couple of days ago the Mariners Action Group established our official website. A screenshot of the Home page is posted above; click on it to go to the actual site.
I hope you'll give it a look and let us know what you like about it, and what you think it needs. The site is there to do a job - to educate the public about MV Iceberg 1 and her captive crew, to tell people what the Mariners Action Group is all about (see the Mission Statement tab), and to guide those who want to do more to support the hostages to our membership site, so they can sign up and get involved. I hope you fit that description!
The site links to our other resources - consisting at the moment of the FB page, a Google+ page, and the membership site whose job is to sign up supporters and communicate with our membership as it grows.
We've had great Facebook traffic - as of this moment, 2,292 people have "Liked" the FB page, and 50 have "Liked" the post on that page announcing the establishment of the website. The stats counter says that 117,698 folks have seen the page itself or a post about the page. The MV Iceberg 1 issue certainly excites people's concern. But somehow, that hasn't translated into active members.
And we need members - members to sign petitions; members to support and give power to our contacts with other organizations who are working from various directions for the captive crew; members to provide their unique point of view about how to meet our challenges.
So I'm appealing to you to help solve this conundrum! First, obviously, by considering the Golden Rule. If you were a mariner in their shoes, you'd want every kind of support you could get - so we, as fellow mariners, should be prepared to give that support ourselves.
Second, you can help by giving us your take on the whole effort: are there obvious gaps in what we're trying to do - is there something wrong with our way of trying to generate support - are we failing to make the case to those who are new to the issue? It's often very hard to see from the inside what is painfully obvious to someone on the outside.
Please let us know your views! And think about whether you can support the effort yourself. The MV Iceberg 1 hostages could be you and me!
THE CHAIN LOCKER
Click the photo to go to Mariners Action Group membership site
Just a quick post to update you on some of our activity with regard to MV ICEBERG 1 - it's been a busy week.
Latest is that we've established a group - the MV Iceberg 1 Mariners Action Group (MAG) - to help us organize our efforts, show that we have support, and gather recommendations for further action. I want to encourage you to click on over and see what you think - please consider joining the group and adding the weight of your membership and your ideas to our effort. No money is required - we're looking for support and good ideas.
(If you're unfamiliar with the MV Iceberg 1 story, click "Iceberg 1", "Iceberg 1 Movie", "Iceberg 1 A. Burney", "Iceberg 1 Petition", and "Iceberg 1 MAG" in the Categories column to the right of the page. Also, see this post on the Kennebec Captain maritime blog.)
We've also established a page at MV Iceberg 1 Mariners Action Group on Facebook, which has had 1,132 "Likes" so far. I think this shows the strong level of support for more action with regard to the MV Iceberg 1 case, and also the high level of concern over the piracy problem among seamen. Have a look and let us know your opinion.
But especially, visit the MAG membership page linked to above! Join, comment, help support and shape this effort. Let's do all we can to bring an end to the suffering of the MV Iceberg 1 hostages, and raise awareness of the shameful inaction shown toward the piracy plague worldwide!
THE CHAIN LOCKER
PAG, meet MAG - click image for MAG FB page
In our last MV ICEBERG 1 post, we'd decided to try to mount a petition to apply pressure for the captive crew's release. I'm still working on that, and still need information about how best to direct the petition. Please see that previous post (below) for details on how you can help identify the best ministry/best official in the Indian government for us to target with our petition. I know we have some readers in India, so please chime in!
In the meantime, we've had an excellent suggestion. KC of the Kennebec Captain maritime blog (a very good blog run by a PCTC Master who operates in piracy waters) has suggested that we start a Facebook page called MV Iceberg 1 Mariners Action Group, to let more people know about the hostages and to gather support for them.
We've done that, and the new Facebook MAG page is live. Please click on over and have a look - "Like" it if you approve, link to it, let others know about it - and I hope you'll use it as a news source about ongoing developments in the MV ICEBERG 1 case, and about piracy in general.
I also hope that when you run across news, photos or other resources about the hostages that you'll inform the rest of us by leaving a comment on the MAG page with links. This is a community page, so we're depending on you to educate the rest of us with what you know and what you learn! Knowledge is power.
Please give the new Facebook MAG page a try. Feel free to comment on the FB MAG page itself with new MV ICEBERG 1 info, or with suggestions for improving the MAG page and reaching more people. Or, leave your comment right here - don't hold back, your honest input can only improve our outreach. You can help!
THE CHAIN LOCKER
Human rights lawyer Ansar Burney - click photo for site
If you've read this blog before, you'll be familiar with the MV ICEBERG I case - 22 survivors out of a crew of 24 men, hailing from six different countries, who have the extremely dubious honor of being the longest-held captives in the history of East African piracy - 127 weeks at this point, and no light at the end of the tunnel.
You'd think that this very hard-earned distinction would have gotten them some international attention and support by now, but you'd be wrong: not only are the men being ignored by their company, Azal Shipping & Cargo of Dubai, but by their respective governments, human rights organizations, and just about everyone else except their families, who suffer daily agonies along with their captive fathers, husbands and sons. I won't go into the whole case here - click on Iceberg I, Iceberg I Movie, and Iceberg I A. Burney in the Categories column to the right side of the page for previous posts with information and many links to videos and other news about the men. It's a fascinating and shameful story, though unfortunately not an uncommon one.
Why should you care? If you're a seaman, as are many readers of this blog, then you know that you could be in their shoes one day - hundreds of seamen are captured every year. And if you're any other member of the human community, you know that failing to care dehumanizes those victims - and you, too a little. I know that human misery is spread all across our planet, and thinking about the totality of it can be overwhelming - but by the same token, doing something about a piece of it, when you see an opportunity to help, can be one of the most empowering experiences you can have. Moving off dead center to go do a small thing can energize you to do much bigger things than you thought possible. Which God do you worship? I don't think He'd counsel inaction - and neither would your conscience!
One reader who chose to take action is Lauren Phillips - see her comments at the end of the Iceberg I A. Burney post. That post had asked readers whether they knew of any action in the ICEBERG I case since international human rights lawyer Ansar Burney had taken on the case, over a year ago. Lauren took the bull by the horns and tweeted Mr. Burney directly - and she got an immediate answer, saying that he was in fact in UAE talking with ICEBERG I's owners right now.
Following up on that encouraging response, I contacted Ansar Burney on LinkedIn to ask what the rest of us could do to aid his efforts; I haven't had an answer to that message yet. And also, following Lauren's lead, I tweeted him with the same question.
Mr. Burney answered, but requested no specific action - just a general call for support. In his second tweet to Lauren he said: "am also looking International support in this regard to get them release as soon as possible as 2 already committed suicide" and then in response to me: "Sure would love to request with every human lover for their help to get release innocent Crew from Somali Pirates" These are pretty innocuous-sounding tweets and were a little disappointing to me at first. But then again, he's apparently in the midst of negotiations at the moment and probably doesn't want to say anything to upset the apple-cart; I'm inclined to give him benefit of the doubt. So why don't we take the other ball - his request for help raising international support - and run with it. How could we do that? Aside from what we're doing at the moment - talking about it online, tweeting about it, and generally making people in our own circle aware - is there more effective action we could take?
Lauren has suggested a petition. Have you seen a petition from Change.org lately? Several have come into my inbox. Change.org is a mechanism for circulating petitions online, and anyone can start one. I think this might be a suitable vehicle, and would certainly get the captive crew's story out to many more people. Here is the Change.org site - have a look and see what you think.
The question is: who would we petition? Yemen has the most crew represented among the captives - eight - but I think Yemen would be a less responsive target for a petition, given the challenges that government faces at the moment.
Captives on ICEBERG I - click photo for another piracy story from The National
India has six crewmembers represented in the captive crew, and as a democratically governed nation, might be more responsive. I also know that the question of captive Indian nationals in the hands of pirates has generated concern and news coverage there (click photo for representative news story). And India is a large nation that is very influential in the region, with resources they can bring to bear - if they will. Perhaps a petition could encourage them.
If we chose India, to whom in the Indian government should the petition be directed? Someone in the ministry of shipping - or external affairs? Here's where you can help, if you've any experience with Indian government affairs. Help us identify a target for our petition - we'll launch it on Change.org, and all of us can push it from there. Our immediate goal will be to help the ICEBERG I's crew, but the pressure should bring greater visibility to all captive seamen.Can you help direct our petition? Please recommend a ministry and an official that might be able to act on behalf of ICEBERG I's crew. Respond in Comments with your information. I'll be researching the question, too. We'll have another post on the subject in about a week, I hope - sooner if someone has the information we need - and I'll post links to the petition and ways to spread the word. Thanks - and God bless you!
THE CHAIN LOCKER
Capt. Francesco Schettino - click photo for gCaptain story
Things look gloomier for Capt. Francesco Schettino, Master of COSTA CONCORDIA. He was released from house arrest some time ago, but still faces charges ranging from manslaughter to misrepresenting his ship's damage to maritime authorities. Now new evidence has come to light proving that Schettino purposely lied to the Coast Guard and his own passengers - delaying the ship's evacuation and possibly costing lives.
As you'll remember, 30 people are known dead in the tragedy; two are missing and presumed dead; and 64 were injured. Two passengers and the ship's injured Purser were rescued from the ship more than 24 hours after the accident. Schettino was taking the ship close to Giglio Island in a salute or "inchino" manuever which he'd done with COSTA CONCORDIA several times before. Indeed, he claimed in one interview that he'd been told by Costa Cruises to do the maneuver. Costa ships COSTA PACIFICA and COSTA ALLEGRA had also come close to the island in similar salutes, so it may be that the risky close passes were considered routine by Costa.
Capt. Schettino also had a personal reason to do the salute. A retired Costa Master was on Giglio watching the ship come past, and was talking on the phone with Schettino at the time - a call that may have distracted him.
See "Costa Concordia AIS" in the Categories column to the right side of the page for the AIS track of the accident along with commentary from gCaptain's John Konrad. Chilling![POST EDIT: I had trouble getting the Vimeo video of the AIS and commentary on gCaptain's site to play for some reason; so here is the direct link to that video. Well worth watching, as you can see exactly where COSTA CONCORDIA is as the incident progresses, and Capt. Konrad does a seamanlike job of explaining what is happening during the animation.]
It's certain that Schettino was neglecting many accepted tenets of prudent navigation: plot your course, maintain situational awareness, have multiple means to identify your position, don't take needless chances, don't allow yourself to become distracted. He'd gotten away with it in the past. But the result this time was evident for all the world to see.
Damage to COSTA CONCORDIA's port side - click the photo to go to Discovery News story
I'd previously read that the Voyage Data Recorder (VDR) had not been working (click on "Costa Concordia Black Box" in the Categories listing to the right of the page). But that seems not to have been true.
Stories from Discovery News, gCaptain, and The Vancouver Sun, among many others, broke the news this week that "black box" recordings obtained by La Stampa newspaper in Italy show Schettino crying out "Madonna, what have I done?" right after striking the rock at 2145, and "So are we really going down?" to the Engineer on watch a few minutes later.
Yet at 2154, just minutes after that remark, Schettino is heard ordering an officer not to tell the passengers what had really happened: "Say that there has been a blackout." And minutes later, he reported to the Coast Guard, "We've had a blackout, we're just evaluating - at most we're going to need a tug boat." He seems to have been simply unable to face the facts.
And yet, he did know the truth. Schettino to his wife as the evacuation finally got underway: "We hit a reef, the ship is listing but I performed a great manoeuvre - everything is under control." But then he added: "My career as a captain is over."
Click for Vancouver Sun story
I've never had to face such a situation, thank God - so I don't know exactly what I'd do. But a lifetime of observing the US Coast Guard has taught me one thing: it's better to tell the whole unvarnished truth first time around, than to leak it out or spin it. That's certain trouble! I'm sure the Italian Coast Guard, or the Coast Guard anywhere, is the same. As some US politicians have had reason to learn, there's the crime, and then there's the cover-up - and the cover-up is infinitely worse.
I hope in a similar situation, I'd spit out the whole truth and let the chips fall where they may! Of course, you should never state that you take any sort of blame - leave legal matters like that to your company's lawyers. But a truthful statement to the Coast Guard of the undisputed facts of an incident will serve both you and your company better than any shading of the truth. Francesco Schettino is about to find that out.
THE CHAIN LOCKER
Adrian Vasquez - click photo for new Maritime Executive story
Back in April, a cruise line news story broke that shocked everyone, particularly coming on top of the then-recent COSTA CONCORDIA fiasco. The Princess Cruises ship STAR PRINCESS was accused of failing to aid three Panamanian fishermen adrift in the Pacific between Panama and the Galapagos Islands. The three men had been drifting for about two weeks at that point and were in severe distress - one of them died that night.
Passengers on the cruise ship had taken photos and alerted a crew member to an apparent boat in distress, but the message never got to the bridge team or the Master, and the ship did not stop to render aid. When the passengers' photos were released, along with their allegations - and the lone survivor, Vasquez, was picked up near the Galapagos after 28 days at sea - a firestorm of accusations and lawsuits against Princess Cruises broke out.
Photo taken by passenger - click for gCaptain story
It appears to me that the boat in the photos may lack the heavy blue stripes and prominent name evident in the video of Vasquez' rescue, although it certainly has some similar decoration - but the photos were taken at such a distance I can't be absolutely sure.
The photo analyst hired by Princess Cruises no doubt had means to examine the distant image in more detail. But from what I can see on these publicly available images, their evidence is far from a slam-dunk. It still seems to me that it could be Adrian's boat. What's your judgment - does Princess have a point here?
At the bottom of the post, see a public relations release by Princess Cruises, laying out their evidence. Again, thought-provoking - but to my eye, not conclusive.
There's also the identification that Adrian made of the STAR PRINCESS, although he might have already been familiar with the ship. But why would he identify her as the ship they had seen that fateful day? I'd like to know more about that.
In addition, Princess Cruises lawyers claim that an analysis of wind and current shows that FIFTY CENT would not have drifted on a track that could have intercepted the course of STAR PRINCESS. They're saying that the boat photographed by the passengers, therefore, had to be another vessel. I don't feel qualified to comment on that likelihood, however. Are you familiar with the currents on that coast - can you give us the benefit of local knowledge?
Princess Cruises PR release - click image for Cruise Law News story
At left, see a PR release from Princess intended to illustrate their case.
If you click the image, you'll go to an interesting post on Cruise Law News that makes some cogent points - among them, that if the boat photographed by the passengers is not FIFTY CENT, then the ship might have passed up two vessels in distress: FIFTY CENT, and a second unknown similar vessel. Lots of questions!
Has anyone out there had direct contact with this story? Can you speak to the allegation that FIFTY CENT could not have drifted across STAR PRINCESS' track? Or, have you seen any useful news links or other resources that you could share? Please respond in the Comments section!
THE CHAIN LOCKER
The Maritime Labor Convention 2006 - the MLC - has been ratified by the Philippines, which means it will come into effect next year.
This is great news, and not only for mariners, but for our entire industry. Here's a post on the ILO website; and another from Naftrade. And this good 3-part article from Seafarer's Rights International goes into useful detail. There are lots of other good references about it on the Web, so if you know of one that covers some aspects these don't, then please link to it in the "Comments" section!
Why is MLC a good thing? For one thing, widespread enforcement of the agreement's provisions will begin to close a shameful back door through which unscrupulous companies have tried to make themselves "more competitive" by exploiting helpless seamen in order to cut crew costs. "More competitive" is in quotes because by any sane calculation a company that used this method to cut crew costs certainly couldn't be considered "competitive". If they ran the rest of their business like that, any knowledgeable shipper would stay as far from them as possible! There's cheap, and then there's stupid. A poorly-run company is a lousy risk in today's competitive - and litigious - shipping world.
And that's a second reason this is such good news: it adds to the professional status of the world's merchant seamen by setting a standard for all to meet - a standard that should be independently borne out by Port State Control (PSC) inspections. This rewards responsible flags and ship operators who maintain high standards.
And all this - and more, such as protection for whistle-blowers - takes a lot of the onus for maintaining safe working conditions off of the individual seafarer and makes it everyone's concern.
I remember a ship that was arrested in Baltimore back in the '90s. I was a tug skipper at that time. We'd been dispatched to the ship, but sailing was delayed. After a bit I hailed a crewmember I could see on deck, and he told me the problem. He was the Chief Mate, and was leading a work action. The crew were all on deck refusing to work, the Master was isolated in the wheelhouse - a standoff.
Turned out the crew had refused to sail the ship, hoping that in a US port they could successfully bring up their grievances. The Mate said they hadn't been paid in many months and the food was unfit to eat, among other abuses. Men who'd complained had been unceremoniously sent home from a previous port with no pay.
Since the ship was under arrest, our tugs left to go do other jobs. I never saw those guys again, but an article in the paper a few days later said that the striking crew had been paid what they were owed and sent home. A new crew was shipped, certain conditions were met, and the ship was allowed to sail. I wonder how the new crew made out?
If you've done any reading about the history of the union movement at sea, or known any real old-timers, you know that the seaman's battle for union representation has been long and full of strife. Almost a century ago it was getting started in US ships, to the occasional accompaniment of violence and bloodshed - on both sides.
And incredibly, once unions did become established, some of them used their own power to exploit seamen! Sometimes union leadership subverted their own democratic processes in order to keep power in the hands of an elite. Organized crime infiltrated some union organizations, with predictable results. There's some ugly history on both sides if you want to look it up. Human affairs can be messy!
But ask yourself - in spite of all this strife - why did the union movement come into being in the first place? Obviously, it addressed a crying need. In the end, all American seamen (whether union members or not) benefited. And so did American maritime industry as a whole. Standards pushed in large part by unions elevated the entire industry.
And I think that's where we are today, with the adoption of MLC - everyone benefits. There's no suggestion of a power play about this - responsible shipping companies and shipping organizations (see the GL YouTube interview above) have welcomed the news as eagerly as flag states and the unions. They see it as bringing stability and a level playing field to manning & training.
And the greater professionalization of the mariner will result in better qualified, safer crews. If you were a shipowner, wouldn't you feel better about turning your multi-million dollar ship investment over to motivated, highly qualified crews? The MLC is a classic win-win.
As in all such things, a lot will depend on implementation. This post from Barista Uno at Marine Cafe Blog expresses justifiable caution on that front (read his other posts on the subject, as well, for some good information). But with so much already accomplished, I'm reasonably confident that the industry will complete the final laps.
Are you working for a company that will be affected by MLC's implementation? Have you worked toward bringing MLC into being? Has your country ratified the convention yet? Please let us know your point of view and how you think MLC will affect your working environment in the Comments section!
THE CHAIN LOCKER
MV ICEBERG - click photo for TheNational story about crew's treatment
After 122 weeks - that's 2 years, 4 months and (endlessly) counting - the 22 surviving sailors on MV ICEBERG are still captive. Still captive, still held almost incommunicado, and still subject to beatings and abuse, according to their families.
And - most painfully - they're still being ignored! Especially by those who should be morally charged with obtaining their release, including their employer and their own national governments. It seems the only folks who haven't forgotten these men are their families - and of course the pirates who hold them.
(To recap their story to date click "Iceberg 1" and "Iceberg I Movie" in the "Categories" listing to the right of the page. And for an excellent video about the human side of the piracy problem, click "Piracy The Human Cost Video" in that same list. Those posts also hold links to other resources about the captives.)
I know I just put up a post about MV ICEBERG a short time ago. And there's no breaking news to report. But tonight I came across a reference to Ansar Burney, the Pakastani lawyer and activist who played a role in the release of MV SUEZ last year.
At that time, July 2011, it was reported that for his next project Burney would try to negotiate release of the seamen of MV ICEBERG I. Here is a news story from TheNational to that effect that was published last year - it's over a year old.
Hope rose on that announcement. Mr. Burney had won praise for the job he did in breaking the MV SUEZ stalemate. He had even raised money from private citizens all over Pakistan for the cause. So it looked like his involvement in the MV ICEBERG I negotiations would signal an end to the cruel status quo for those captive seamen.
But that's essentially the last I've heard. News searches on the Web yield nothing but old news. What became of Mr. Burney's mission? Like the rest of the MV ICEBERG I story, it seems to have sunk into inaction and obscurity.
So I'm appealing to seamen everywhere! Have you seen later or better information about MV ICEBERG I, Ansar Burney's mission, or other info about this tragically murky saga? Please enlighten the rest of us with links and info.
And as always, keep doing what you can to put the shameful MV ICEBERG I story front & center. Let the rest of us know what we can do to help in your efforts - concerted action gets results!
Being held in close captivity under inhuman conditions is cruel. Being beaten and mistreated in that captivity is even worse. But being ignored for years at a time while this is going on is unconscionable! Let's raise the heat on those who feel they can discount the humanity of these men - our own humanity is diminished if we fail to do what we can.
THE CHAIN LOCKER
BEAUJOLAIS, formerly NEW YORK GETTY at the scrapyard in Brownsville, TX 2006 - click photo for Shipspotting site
I've been missing for a while, visiting my old friend John, a marine Engineer, on the West coast. Since I live on the East coast, we're a long way apart and don't get to see each other often. But I've known John for 40 years, and he's my oldest and best friend. Time, distance and changing seagoing careers haven't dimmed our friendship!
John and I went down the Mississippi together (click "Fit 1" "Fit 2" & "Fit 3" in the Categories listing to the right of this page). And before that, way back when we were young seamen starting at the bottom, we sailed together on Getty's oil tankers, then homeported in Delaware City, Delaware.
We both started in the galley, under a Filipino Chief Steward named Ebon. Back in those days, seagoing jobs weren't so easy to come by; and Ebon could remember when they were even harder to get. He worked us pretty hard (though he wasn't a bad guy) and if we complained, he'd remind us of his own early days, when crowds of hungry men were waiting on the dock ready to take any job in case a man was fired. Twenty men for each job, he'd exclaim! In those days, he told us, you shut up and did your job if you wanted to keep it - we young men didn't know how lucky we were. While neither John nor I, in our youthful cockiness, could quite get on board with this notion, we respected Ebon and got with his program. He had high standards and believed in doing a good job.
Not that he was without his quirks. My duties included carefully cleaning all the food storage areas every month - dry storage, chill box & freezer. As any sailor knows, these are large areas, the chill box and freezer each being sizable rooms, and dry storage occupying half the ship's beam. Cleaning them meant taking out or moving each item so the shelving could be soogied. The many wood gratings from the chill box and freezer were taken out on deck, scrubbed, and allowed to dry in the sun before being put back. It was a lot of work.
When it was done Ebon would inspect, and he wasn't shy about pointing out shortcomings. I learned to do it right the first time. After Ebon was satisfied with the galley, the Captain would also have a look - he inspected the entire ship every month - and Ebon would accompany him around, visibly nervous that the Captain would find something to complain about.
One month Captain Brigham, with a somewhat misplaced sense of humor, decided to poke fun at Ebon. Near the end of his inspection, at the foot of the ladder leading out of dry storage, he suddenly looked down and started stamping his foot as if he'd seen a cockroach. Ebon jumped about a mile, looking around for the roach, which didn't exist. The Captain thought this was funny as Hell and had a good laugh. Then he went chuckling about his business.
Not so, Ebon. The phantom roach had upset him. So he had me do the entire job over again - chill box, freezer, gratings and all! The Captain got a good muttered cussing from me that day.
The photo above is of a ship called BEAUJOLAIS, formerly NEW YORK GETTY - a sister to the DELAWARE GETTY, on which John and I first served under Ebon. The ship is gone now, her life played out - but the friendship between John and me has endured, and is better than ever. It will never be scrapped! In a world full of shifting realities, an old and firm friendship is a precious thing, and I'm very grateful for it.
Have you been blessed with such a friendship in your travels? Look around - maybe a lifelong friend is joking with you right now. Nationality, culture, even religion needn't be a barrier to deep understanding and lasting friendship. If you have such a friend, you're lucky!
Can you tell us about a friendship that has survived the swirling currents of our profession? Please respond in the Comments section!
THE CHAIN LOCKER
If you've read many previous posts on this blog, you know the sad saga of MV ICEBERG (click "Iceberg 1" in the Categories list to the right of the page). Hijacked only 10 miles into her voyage from Aden to Jebel Ali on 29 March 2010, she's been held captive ever since - 118 miserable weeks - the longest-captive crew in the brutal history of Somali piracy.
Her original crew of 24 has been diminished by two since then: first, her Yemeni 3rd officer, suffering from malnutrition and psychological problems, committed suicide by jumping overboard on 27 October 2010. His body was recovered and stored in the ship's freezer - but since the ship had only sporadic generator capability, this can't have been a good situation. The ship's owner declined to help. Second, on 9 February 2011 her Chief Engineer was taken away by armed men to an undisclosed location, after the crew had been threatened with execution if the owner failed to pay ransom. His current status is unknown.
MV ICEBERG's crew have been beaten, abused, and deprived of adequate food, clean water and medical treatment. In December last year some of the crew were reportedly taken ashore due to illness, but to my knowledge this is unconfirmed. The ship may be in bad shape, too - one report had her taking water in the engine room. She's been without supplies and maintenance for a long time.
The saddest thing is that their condition has been ignored not only by their shipping company, but also substantially by their respective governments: those of Yemen, India, Ghana, Sudan, Pakistan and the Philippines. I've read very little about concrete action taken to release the men, though rumors of talks and impending release have swirled sporadically. That just adds to the torture the men's families must be feeling.
See this link to a video from IBN Live in which Diraj Tiwari, MV ICEBERG's Chief Mate, tells of the crew's despair. Check the date: that video was taken 15 months ago!
Somalia Report has tracked the situation since the beginning, and posted this timeline and summary on 26 June. It's an excellent wrapup of developments to date, and has many good links.
MV ICEBERG's owner is reported to be Azal Shipping of Dubai - once said to have gone out of business and unable to negotiate for MV ICEBERG's ransom - but with a current website "under construction" at the link above. When the maritime news site gCaptain called the number listed on the site, they got no answer. Another story is that Azal Shipping is a front for the real owner, Saeed Mohamed Qali, currently held at Guantanamo Bay. In any case, the ship's owners have been unable or unwilling to provide a ransom, or even to assist the captives in any way.
At the top of the post see a video trailer for an upcoming documentary about MV ICEBERG's plight, being made by Neil Bell for Rabotat Films. I hope it will draw attention to this unconscionable situation - I hope that it enables people outside the maritime world to put themselves in these men's shoes!
As seamen, we can help generate pressure to save MV ICEBERG's crew. Please track the progress of the upcoming documentary, tweet and link to posts and news about MV ICEBERG, spread the word to friends and family. Bring the murky, largely ignored saga of this ship and her miserable crew out of the shadows and into the spotlight. You can help them if you act!