thumbnail_Fishers Kenya RaHorakhty abandonment case 2

Maritime charity Stella Maris has called for support to end the “alarming rise” in the number of abandoned seafarers. 

“Cases of seafarers abandoned by shipowners without money, support, or the means to get home have reached alarming levels around the world,” said Stella Maris. 

Indeed, data from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) found that known cases of abandonment amounted to 143 in 2023, and already more than 100 cases reported in 2024. 

Abandonment cases occur when shipowners withhold wages, repatriation, and even basic needs such as food, accommodation, and medical care.  

The charity has dubbed this a ‘humanitarian crisis’ and added that many seafarers suffer with mental issues as a result of their treatment.  

CEO of Stella Maris, Tim Hill, said: “This is a call to action for the entire maritime industry, we must unite to enforce international laws, hold negligent companies accountable and provide immediate assistance to abandoned crew.” 

And Stella Maris senior area port chaplain for Scotland and Northern Ireland, Deacon Joseph O’Donnell, asked companies and organisations which benefit from the maritime industry, such as major retailers, to help.  

He noted that a major issue in labour supply countries is the role of formal recruitment agencies and ‘unlicensed agents’, who visit villages with promises of wages and conditions that often don’t materialize.  

“It will really help if we can cut out these unlicensed agents, better regulate the formal recruiters and properly introduce new skilled work visas,” said Mr O’Donnell. 

In recent years, Stella Maris has supported abandoned crews in countries around the world including Kenya and Taiwan.  

Recently, its team in Taiwan supported the crew of eight Indonesians on a cargo ship abandoned in Kaohsiung port, who needed provisions and help to return home to their families. 

And its team in Kenya supported crew members on an abandoned fishing vessel in Mombasa port for over a year with food, water and Wi-Fi. 

The Stella Maris chaplain in Mombasa, Margaret Masibo, recalled: “Men were crying, others were shouting, some had withdrawn into silence. For several days, they’d had no food or fresh water. They were starving to death. 

“Since the ship had been abandoned, not a single person had stepped on board to help – until I did. The men had no money and couldn’t disembark because they didn’t have papers to be in Kenya. It was a terrible, heart-breaking sight to see people abandoned so carelessly.” 

Mr O’Donnell concluded: “Awareness of these issues needs to be raised to higher government levels. It is a truly global issue.” 

Comment on this article

You must be logged in to post a comment.