Monday, August 28, 2006
The crew of a stranded Egyptian freighter may have to stay on board another month after a judge ordered the vessel be auctioned amid a shipping dispute. The Edco will be put up for auction Sept. 21, U.S. District Judge David Norton ruled. Bidding on the 22,350-ton ship is expected to start at $2 million. That money will be set aside as security until an international lawsuit involving cargo and the Edco's sister ship is resolved. The Edco and its 29 crew members have been stuck in Charleston for two months since Hong Kong-based Grand Max Marine Ltd. sued owner Misr Edco Chipping after a contract with the Edco Star could not be fulfilled because the Star was deemed not seaworthy. The crew cannot leave the ship until they have plane tickets, said Joanne Fogg, acting port director for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
MV EdcoShe said usually the ship's owner would cover the cost of sending a crew home, but that hasn't happened in this case. ``All we need is a plane ticket and we can get them out,'' Fogg said. If the crew does get to go home, a replacement crew would have to be hired to move the ship if Charleston Harbor is threatened by a hurricane. That would be an expensive alternative for a ship already mired in debt, including the cost of resupplying and mooring the vessel for two months. The ship's owner has not paid some of the crew in as long as nine months. Its Captain, Mohammed Ellewaa, said he asked the Egyptian Embassy for help in getting the crew paid and sent home. ``They gave me a promise they would find a solution to this problem,'' he said.