Lanka Mahapola: Crew Coming Home, Ship Detained
- Exclusive Images From On-Board Lanka Mahapola: ‘A Rust Bucket’
By Faraz Shauketaly
The saga of the Lanka Mahapola the vessel owned by the Ceylon Shipping Corporation (CSC) and chartered out to Triple S Shipping continues albeit with relief for the Sri Lankan crew on board. Reports reaching Colombo indicate that the crew members have been paid their salaries and are on their way back home to Sri Lanka. The Chief Engineer’s salary was in dispute but expected to be resolved at the time of going to press. The vessel however has been detained by the Maritime Authorities in Durban on safety grounds. According to the ships’ agents, essential repairs will be carried out as soon as the Durban authorities release the vessel after resolving the wage dispute in full. It is expected that essential repairs will take not more than a week to complete. The Ceylon Shipping Corporation expects that the vessel will be returned to them within a fortnight.
A source at the CSC said that the Sri Lanka High Commission in South Africa is looking into the interests of the vessel and are monitoring events closely. The vessel will not be free to sail until essential repairs affecting its safety are carried out. Last week Dr Sanjay Sedara Senarath of Triple S Shipping said that he had allocated a sum of US$ 50,000 to carry out those repairs and was confident that the necessary compliance certificates would be issued enabling Lanka Mahapola to sail out of Durban.
The vessel arrived in Durban after 53 days at sea on a journey scheduled to have lasted 30 days.
According to the Chief Engineer the journey from Jeddah to Durban was fraught with danger and ‘repairs to the engine was carried out 10 times.’ Worryingly for the crew, two of these repairs took place in Somali waters.
The Chief Enginner also said that the ships’ generators were stopped off the coast of Mozambique and for 13 days the ship had no lights – placing the vessel and the crew in grave danger. An inspector with the International Transport Federation (ITF) Sprite Zungu had visited the crew on board and helped initiate legal action for recovery of the crew wages.
The vessel has been in Durban since the 17th of May and has been the centre of a growing controversy which has seen the CSC issuing a letter of demand for the payment of its dues from Triple S Shipping and CSC writing separately asking for the return of the vessel. Under the terms of its Charter party agreement the matter is now in arbitration. Sources within the shipping industry refuted claims that Lanka Mahapola was in use for the War Effort, saying instead that it was the other CSC vessel, Lanka Mudditha that had done so. Previously the vessel was chartered out to a company connected to Shantha Gomes.
Our maritime sources indicate that it was after Gomes that Triple S Shipping made a play for a new agreement with the CSC. In last week’s copy we inadvertently mentioned that the Triple S Shipping Charter party was nearly two years old. In fact it is just under one year. The error is regretted.