Sad Christmas for marooned Russian crew

8th January 2009, Comments 0 comments

With no pay and little communication, sailors are in limbo as they wait for proper financing.

Saint-Malo – The Orthodox Christmas holiday brought little cheer Wednesday to the 10-strong crew of the Russian coastal freighter Yeya 1, trapped in a freezing Breton port.

The eight Russians and two Ukrainians on board have been marooned without pay in France for two months after their company failed to pay for compulsory repairs to the 83-meter vessel.

"We've had no money and no news,” skipper Andrei Zyablov told AFP. “I spoke to the owner by telephone at the end of November and heard lots of promises. Since then, there's been nothing. I would have liked to hear something for Christmas."

The Yeya 1 is registered under a flag of convenience in Belize, but owned by the Russian-based Ukrainian firm Yeya Shipping Ltd. It normally plies a route between several French, Dutch and British ports.

The crew were forced to moor in Saint-Malo on the north coast of Brittany on November 20 after suffering engine trouble, and the ship was ordered to remain at anchor after maritime safety inspectors found several other faults.

Repair work began and then was suspended when the company failed to pay up. The boat has now been placed under judicial control after the French firm that most recently paid for its services launched a legal action.

In the meantime, the miserable crew has been relying on the generosity of local sailors' charities to get them through the winter, while international labor unions take up their demands for back pay.

Christmas is celebrated by Orthodox Christians in central and eastern Europe and throughout the world on January 7 in the Gregorian Calendar -- 13 days after other Christians.


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