A Cameroonian-flagged cargo ship has been detained by Irish authorities in the Port of Sligo since the middle of October, the Department of Transport has confirmed.
It’s understood that the detainment followed a routine Irish Marine Survey Office (MSO) inspection of the ship after its arrival in Sligo.
The MV Sheksna left the Tunisian port of Sfax on 26 September, carrying smokeless fuel aggregate for an Irish customer, which it delivered before being impounded by the MSO.
Sligo Port Harbour Master John Carton told TheJournal.ie that the 11 crew members are still on board the ship but have been kept well-provisioned since their arrival.
He said the crew had been re-supplied in recent days.
In response to queries, the Department of Transport would only confirm that “a ship has been detained in Sligo under the provisions of the Paris Memorandum of Understanding”.
A spokesperson for the department said that further queries would have to be addressed to the ship’s “flag state which is Cameroon”.
The Cameroonian consulate in Dublin has been approached for comment.
The Paris MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) on Port State Control is an official agreement between the marine authorities of its 27 members.
It comprises 22 EU member states — including Ireland — as well as Canada, Iceland, Norway, Russia and the UK.
Its purpose is “to eliminate the operation of sub-standard ships through a harmonised system of port State control”, according to its mission statement.
“Annually more than 17,000 inspections take place on board foreign ships in the Paris MoU ports, ensuring that these ships meet international safety, security and environmental standards, and that crew members have adequate living and working conditions,” its official website states.
Michael Whelan, a Siptu trade union organiser and International Transport Federation (ITF) inspector, visited the Sheksna recently to check on the crew’s welfare.
He said that he distributed ITF literature to the crew in Russian and English after the ship’s captain identified himself as a Russian national.
However, neither he nor the harbour master could officially confirm the nationalities of the crew.
“The question of adequate provisions for the crew is always a concern when the MSO detains a vessel,” Whelan said.
“My role as the ITF Inspector in Ireland is to visit ships that utilise our ports to ensure that the seafarers on board are treated properly, regarding their welfare, terms and conditions and any other issues that might arise.”
He confirmed that the crew had been adequately provisioned since their arrival.
The crew can also avail of shore leave, Whelan explained, “which is important for their well-being. However, the possibility of bringing Covid on board is also a concern that has to be taken into consideration.”
Whelan added, “When I visited the Sheksna I requested application documents to examine them to verify that the crew are paid properly and that their duration on board was not excessive.”
However, a representative for the company that owns the ship indicated to Whelan that it will only provide the documents to the ITF if he is accompanied by officials from the MSO.
Whelan said that the ship can only be released from detention when the MSO is satisfied that the issues identified in its inspection have been dealt with.
“The crew would be expected to stay as crew members until their contracts expire,” he said.