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Piracy & seafarer employment contracts

Amalgam of multiple issues such as piracy, seafarer employment contracts, CBAs, arrest of ship and sister ship – is what makes The Asphalt Venture [2016] an interesting case. Not new but an important one.

She was captured by Somali pirates in Sept’10. $3.4m ransom was paid in Apr’11 for release of 15 Indian seafarers but only 8 were released. Other were later released in 2014. Head bareboat charterer (BC) withdrew the vsl in Jun’11 but kept on paying wages to crew untill Oct’11. Families of 7 crew members demanded further payments but BC said that crew contract was signed with a crewing agent. Hostages’ families arrested UACC Eagle alleging it was a sister ship of Asphalt Venture. UACC Eagle’s owners settled with the families who in turn ceded their claims/liens to them. Seeking reimbursement, they arrested Asphalt Venture.

SA's Supreme Ct. gave judgement in BC's favour. Court's findings were that hostages never had a maritime lien and wages paid by BC untill Oct’11 were indeed ex-gratia. Also, SEAs would have expired within 10 months after joining and that would have been in early 2011. SEAs did not contemplate a situation where vsl is held in captivity & crew will still be paid notwithstanding its expiry and no service being rendered by crew.

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