August 31, 2020 – 21 Croatian sailors trapped on the ship Zagreb since March are currently anchored in the Philippines. They cannot disembark and have so far failed to be replaced, because of Coronavirus. For some, it is their 10th month on the ship. Their contracts have expired and they have stopped being paid.
Being homesick is an accepted part of the job for long-distance seafarers. But 21 Croatian sailors trapped on the cargo ship Zagreb for 5 months are being pushed to the limit of their nerves by their current confinement.
Through no fault of their own, the 21 Croatian sailors have been held on board and unable to leave since March. Strict pandemic measures in the Philippines, where they are currently anchored in the port of Mauban, mean they cannot get off. Shipowners, Atlantska plovidba, have so far replaced 11 of their other crews, allowing them to go home. But, no replacement crew has so far been sent to relieve these men. The entire crew is Croatian. This is the final crew working for Atlantska plovidba awaiting replacement.
Although the seamen have been trapped on board for only 5 months, for some of the 21 Croatian sailors this is actually their 10th consecutive month on the ship. Nerves are fraught and the tension onboard has been reported to be almost unbearable. The men are exhausted. Conflicts between crew members are becoming more common because of the intense psychological pressure they are under. The temperature on deck in the port can often reach 50 degrees, and 52 degrees in the engine room.
The port of Mauban in the Philippines © Lawrence Ruiz
Prior to be anchored in the Philippines, the boat was in port in Singapore. Atlantska plovidba tried to replace the crew there and asked the Croatian Ministry of Transport for assistance. The Ministry wrote to Singaporean authorities in late July, pleading with them to allow their sailors to disembark and be replaced, citing the mental stress of those onboard and the fact that many of the crew were out of contract (indeed, for many, payment for their services has long since stopped). Singaporean authorities rejected the request without comment. They instead prioritised ships which were carrying sailors onboard for more than eleven months.
The ship owners have maintained regular communication with the Ministry of Transport, the Croatian Seafarers Union and the boat’s command regarding the situation and is actively seeking a resolution. Atlantska plovidba d.d. is a Croatian shipping company and was founded in 1955 in Dubrovnik.