Economic recalculation is proceeding slowly

An engineer stuck on a cargo ship abandoned in a Black Sea port has waited four years to get paid and go home.

Off the coast of Somalia, a crew awaiting pay languishes on a pirate-trawled stretch of the Indian Ocean while their ship slowly takes on water. Another 14 seafarers, stuck on a cargo ship off the coast of Iran, have run out of food and fuel. Some contemplated suicide.

“We cannot survive here,” said an engineer aboard the MV Aizdihar, abandoned off the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas. “Please help us.” He spoke via video earlier this year, his face drawn.

The $14 trillion shipping industry, responsible for 90% of world trade, has left in its wake what appears to be a record number of cargo-ship castaways. Abandonment cases are counted when shipowners fail to pay crews two or more months in wages or don’t cover the cost to send crew members home, according to the International Maritime Organization, a United Nations agency.

Last year, the number of such cases reported to the agency more than doubled to 85 from 40 in 2019. This year is on track to be worse.

More than 1,000 seafarers are currently abandoned on container ships and bulk carriers, according to estimates by the International Transport Workers’ Federation, a labor union. The true toll is likely higher because many crew members are reluctant to speak out for fear of being blacklisted, according to interviews with seafarers on abandoned vessels, shipowners, agents, maritime organizations and union officials.

Mohamed Arrachedi, the union’s Middle East coordinator, said he wakes up to dozens of WhatsApp messages from distraught sailors around the world: “It’s a global humanitarian crisis.”

Here is more from the WSJ, by Drew Hinshaw and Joe Parkinson.

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