An Indian captain stuck aboard an Indian ship stranded at a UK port for 18 months due to a long-standing legal dispute over unpaid crew wages and port dues is set to return home, a media report said today.
Nikesh Rastogi, 43, is the captain of the offshore supply vessel Malaviya Twenty which has been held at a port in Great Yarmouth, in the East Anglia region of England, since July 2016 after its Indian owners declared bankruptcy.
Most of the original crew has since been repatriated back to India but Rastogi and three other crew members have been stuck aboard for 18 months due to a stalemate with the harbours owners. Lawyers acting for the crew made representations to the Admiralty Marshal at the High Court in July and the ship has now been arrested, meaning the court can arrange to sell it and use the money for the sailors' wages.
"It is like a weight being lifted because there was a point of no hope. There was a period where things were really bad mentally," Rastogi was quoted as saying by the Independent newspaper.He said he hopes to fly home with his colleagues within weeks.
Rastogi, from Mumbai, said he and his three crew members had received no wages since last year and had feared they would not get paid if they left the ship as it would be "considered a derelict which means anybody can take it over".
Paul Haworth, a director at the law firm Birketts which represented the crew, said a surveyor instructed by the court will value the ship and the sale process should conclude in September. Paul Keenan, inspector with the International Transport Workers' Federation, said the ship could sell for 700,000 to 800,000 pounds.
Haworth said this should be enough to pay those involved in the wrangle, including the Admiralty Marshal's costs, port dues, the crew's unpaid wages and lawyers.
Rastogi said they looked out for "markers for depression" and he read books to keep busy.
"Your mind needs to be like a shark in that sense because if you stop then you sink and you start thinking about the situation and then there's no hope," he said.
Rastogi said he would continue to work at sea after the ordeal, adding "lightning doesn't strike twice". Asked about his plans when he returned home, he said: "I think I'm going to have lots of Indian food". "I'm going to start with curries from breakfast to dinner," he said.
Malaviya Twenty, owned by Mumbai's GOL Offshore Ltd, was arrested in July 2016 and issued with a distrainment order under the UK's Harbour Act, which means it cannot leave the port at Great Yarmouth.