The rights of mariners

Horrors – I didn’t realize the crew of the ship that destroyed the Key Bridge in Baltimore are stuck on the damn ship.

As a controlled explosion rocked the Dali on Monday, nearly two dozen sailors remained on board, below deck in the massive ship’s hull. The simultaneous blasts sent pieces of Baltimore’s once iconic Francis Scott Key Bridge into the dark waters of Maryland’s Patapsco River, seven weeks after its collapse left six people on the bridge dead and the Dali marooned.

Authorities – and the crew – hope that the demolition will mark the beginning of the end of a long process that has left the 21 men on board trapped and cut off from the world, thousands of miles from their homes.

They’re bound to be used to being trapped on the ship for long periods, but not that long, and not with nothing to do but wait. Makes me claustrophobic just thinking about it.

The crew, made up of 20 Indians and a Sri Lankan national, has been unable to disembark because of visa restrictions, a lack of required shore passes and parallel ongoing investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and FBI.

Jeez. You’d think officialdom could come up with some way to keep track of them but still let them off the ship.

Among those who have been in touch with the crew is Joshua Messick, executive director of the Baltimore International Seafarers’ Center, a non-profit organisation that works to protect the rights of mariners. According to Mr Messick, the crew has been left largely without communication with the outside world for “a couple of weeks” after their mobile phones were confiscated by the FBI as part of the investigation.

“They can’t do any online banking. They can’t pay their bills at home. They don’t have any of their data or anyone’s contact information, so they’re really isolated right now,” Mr Messick said. “They just can’t reach out to the folks they need to, or even look at pictures of their children before they go to sleep. It’s really a sad situation.”

The owners and bosses of course remain free and comfortable.

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