Aetea Sierra crew’s ordeal nears endDec 26th, 2009 | By staff | Category: Top Story
( 22 Dec. 2009) The ordeal of 12 Filipino officers and seamen, as well as of the Ukranian and Montenegrin crew, manning the problematic Cayman Islands-registered Aetea Sierra will soon end with lawyers of the International Transport Federation (ITF) and the Philippine Embassy succeeding in convincing a Piraeus court to immediately settle the unpaid salaries of the ship’s crew and to undertake arrangements for the crew to leave the ship and return home.
The Piraeus court of first instance issued an order 21 December, directing the shipowner of cargo ship Aetea Sierra to pay the salaries of the crew, including the 12 Filipinos on board. Eleven of them were represented by ITF lawyers and one, Jesus Hantic, was represented by Atty. Christos Moschos, a lawyer provided by the Philippine Embassy’s Philippine Overseas Labor Office.
A favorable element of the court’s order was its directive to the shipowner to pay the entire crew salaries at prevailing Greek standards, rather than the salaries specified in the crewmen’s original conrtacts.
According to Atty. Moschos, in the case of Mr. Hantic, he stands to receive about $26,000 – or more than four times the salary provided in his POEA contract, using Greek salary standards.
Should the ship owner fail to pay the crew, the ship would be held for public auction. Next to taxes, the wages of the crew enjoy preference in payment from the proceeds of the sale. If the sale becomes necessary, the process is expected to take from one to one and a half months.
The return home of the Filipino crew is being arranged. Eleven of them have completed their contracts and have indicated the wish to go home. They can leave as soon as a replacement crew takes over the ship. Under the law of the seas, officers and seamen are bound not to abandon a ship unless there is a relief crew.
However, Greek regulations require that the ship be manned by seafarers from the Common Market (EEC or European Community). To date, however, the ship owner is unable to fulfill the requirement but it is seeking permission from the Greek Ministry of Mercantile Marine to hire from Ukraine or Sri Lanka to facilitate the early return of the Filipino seamen.
If necessary, the Embassy may consider requesting the Greek Ministry to allow the Filipino seamen to go home even before the arrival of the relief crew.
The Filipino crew are 2nd mate Jose Cardenas, 2nd engineer Gardner Monte, 3rd engineer Jesus Hantic, oiler Wilfredo Ranara, oiler Ric Leano Camina, AB Florvic Labaco, AB Gil Jhun Moneva, AB Constnacio Cubay, Jr., 2nd Cook Primo Fernandico, messman Erolin Chiong Jr., messman Jerry Laride, and deckman Julius Caesar Flores.
The Aetea Sierra was impounded in the Piraeus Port in September near Athens when a case was filed against its owners by the ship charterers for its alleged failure to unload the cargo at the agreed port (not in Greece).
Contrary to rumors, the ship crew were being regularly supplied with the normal provisions, with Greek port authorities quite strict in monitoring the quality of food and water delivered to ship crewmen by Greek companies engaged in such business.
The Philppine Embassy’s Labor Attache George Eduvala and even the Consul General Constancio Vingno, were in regular cellphone communication with Jose Cardenas, the highest ranking Filipino officer, and with other crewmen to determine what the crew needed. Labor attaché Eduvala had early talked to the entire crew to explain to them their options.
When Mr. Hantic refused to agree with the 11 other Filipino crewmen to contract the ITF lawyer, labor attaché Eduvala provided him with a Greek lawyer who had an excellent record in handling cases of seamen in Piraeus. The embassy also delivered Filipino foodstuffs and other provisions to the crew, who were on the ship moored about 20 kilometers off Piraeus.
Philippine Ambassador to Athens Rigoberto Tiglao had written a note verbale to Greek authorities to allow the Filipino crewmen to immediately return home, even with only a skeletal crew on the ship.#