After five months of being detained and abandoned, the crew of the Liberian-flagged M/V Evolution has finally been paid their due wages, and those who wished to be repatriated were sent home, thanks to the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).
The 505-foot, runaway-flag cargo vessel was first detained by the U.S. Marshals Service on Jan. 31, after it arrived off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. The vessel was abandoned by an overseas maritime firm called Smooth Navigation, which stranded the 21 mariners on board, waiting to receive the $355,000 in back pay they were owed.
The crew, 19 from the Philippines, one Jordanian officer and one Lebanese officer, continued to perform their duties on the ship while being detained. Without the proper immigration documents, they were unable to leave the vessel and enter the United States.
The vessels’ insurers demanded that the Evolution be put on the auction block to pay for a shipment of iron that was damaged by saltwater as the vessel sailed to Indonesia from Iran. They sought to recoup $1.45 million from the sale of the vessel.
The Evolution is the first major vessel abandonment in the United States since crew abandonment insurance was created in 2018, according to ITF Inspector Corey Connor.
“It does happen. It’s not uncommon, especially around the world, but it’s very uncommon in the United States,” said Connor.
He added that the vessel was finally sold at auction in May for two main reasons: “One, the vessel is abandoned, so there’s currently nobody taking responsibility for it. So, the vessel needs to be sold to a new company. The second part of that is getting the crew paid. The crew hadn’t been paid in four months, so we were able to get everyone to agree to pay the crew with the money earned from the sale of the vessel.”
The crew was partially repatriated on June 13, and the 19 Filipino crewmembers were allowed to return home. The officers chose to stay on board until the new owners take control of the vessel, and Connor was informed in a message from the crew that this was the “good ending” they had hoped for. The full amount of the wages owed to the mariners was on the way as of press time. The SIU is an ITF affiliate; SIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel serves as chair of the ITF Seafarers’ Section.