Monday, January 14, 2008

Stateless Ship's Crew Left Out In The Cold

A crew of 14 has been left aboard a stranded fishing ship in freezing weather after it ran aground on Rishirito (Rishiri) island off northern Hokkaido on Jan. 1. There have been no reports of oil leaks or injuries from the accident. The ship, named Derbent, has no protection or indemnity insurance. It also does not have a valid registry, rendering it stateless. Although the crew said that the ship was of Cambodian registry, the Japan Coast Guard officials found that its registry had expired in July 2006. The 602-ton ship did not plan to call at a Japanese port, and therefore it did not take out protection and indemnity insurance, required for any foreign vessel of 100 tons or more making a port call in Japan, sources said. Local officials said that makes salvaging the vessel problematic, as they are unsure if they can recover the costs involved in removing the ship. A salvage company has been called in by local officials, however. It is expected to survey the scene today to figure out a way to remove the ship.Meanwhile, town officials have decided not to allow crew members to leave the ship unless their lives are threatened by severe weather. "We fear that they may run away and leave the ship stranded," an official explained. Local inns have refused to open their doors to crew members despite efforts by the ship's owner to find lodging for them. An official from a local group of fishermen alerted the Wakkanai Coast Guard Office about the ship's accident around 8 p.m. on Jan. 1. The ship, sailing from South Korea to Russia, initially did not respond to radio inquiries, coast guard officials said. The next morning, 14 crew members were found aboard the ship, including Russians and Ukrainians. Local officials initially tried to tug the ship from its stranded location because areas surrounding the site include seaweed cultivation beds. But cables from a tugboat were severed and other difficulties arose in the rescue attempts. Coast guard officials said they could not estimate when the Derbent might be freed.

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