BANGA BIRAJ | Malaysian High Court to decide fate of ‘prison ship’

PORT KLANG: The Shah Alam High Court will decide the fate of detained container vessel MV Banga Biraj today after the 15 crewmen abandoned the vessel last Friday.

The court is set to meet the Marine Department, Northport and other relevant parties to decided whether the ship should be sold to pay for the losses.

The ship had damaged two quay cranes at the Northport causing losses at about RM7mil and the crewmen had not been paid their wages for the past nine months amounting to over RM300,000.

It is believed the sale of the ship, possibly by auction, would be in the best interest of the crew.

The proceeds from sale could be used to repatriate the crew and settle their outstanding salaries.

Meanwhile, the shipowner’s local representative, HRC Shipping Sdn Bhd general manager Kazi Nurul Alam sent a letter to Central Region Marine Department requesting that the 15 crewmen be returned to the ship.

In the letter dated June 3, which was addressed to the department’s director Captain Jailani Jalal, Kazi claimed the closed-door meeting on May 27 between relevant parties to decide the fate of the crew was inadequate.

It was also stated the shipowners were unable to replace the crew because only Bangladeshi nationals are allowed to be hired as the crew onboard Bangladesh-registered vessels.

“We are shocked and deeply regret the actions on board MV Banga Biraj and urge the Marine Department to return all the crew members,” said Kazi in the letter.

The ship’s master Captain A.K.M. Alamgir had given the order to abandon ship after the crew had gone 13 months without adequate food and water and under poor living conditions.

Capt Jailani said the matter was now under the Bukit Aman Anti-Trafficking In Persons Unit (Atip) and Labour Department.

“The crew is under their care, it is out of my hands,” he said yesterday.

All 15 crewmen are currently staying at the human trafficking victims safe house in Tanjung Keling, Malacca.

Atip unit chief Deputy Supt Nor Omar Sappi said the return of the crew was not possible at the moment as there was an ongoing investigation by the Labour Department under the Anti-Trafficking In Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrant Act 2007.

Source: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2011/6/7/courts/8849121&sec=courts

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