Hanjin crew spends stranded Christmas afloat

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THE crew of the Hanjin Scarlet, one of the last ships of the failed container line still stranded while a bankruptcy court decides its fate, was treated to a Christmas feast by members of Canadian maritime unions, brightening the holidays for seafarers facing an uncertain future.

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The Hanjin Scarlet, with a crew of 10 Filipinos and six Koreans, was preparing to arrive at Prince Rupert, British Columbia on Canada’s west coast on August 31 when South Korea’s troubled Hanjin Line was placed into receivership to protect it from creditors.

WELCOME PRESENCE Canadian union coordinator Peter Lahay (front left) poses for a picture with the crew of the stranded Hanjin Scarlet on October 23. PHOTO: PETER LAHAY/FACEBOOK

WELCOME PRESENCE Canadian union coordinator Peter Lahay (front left) poses for a picture with the crew of the stranded Hanjin Scarlet on October 23. PHOTO: PETER LAHAY/FACEBOOK

According to the Calgary Herald, the ship sat off Prince Rupert until September 7, when it was allowed to dock and unload part of its cargo. As it was departing for its next port of call in Seattle, however, Hanjin creditors applied to the Federal Court of Canada to have the ship placed under arrest. The application was approved September 14, forcing the ship to remain in Prince Rupert’s outer harbor.

It is currently anchored in Plumper Sound, about 100 kilometers north of the city of Victoria.

Long days
The biggest enemy of the crew, the Herald report said, is evidently boredom; as of today, New Year’s Eve, the ship has been stranded for 108 days.

“We have to think, what can we do?” Archie Olar, the crew’s third officer, was quoted by the newspaper as saying. “There’s nothing to do here. If you don’t do anything, maybe you go crazy.”

The plight of the crew attracted the attention of Peter Lahay, the national coordinator of the International Transport Workers’ Federation in Canada, who was able to board the ship on October 23.

“They were happy to see me,” Lahay said in a text message. “Their provisions were running low and so was morale, so a new face was welcome.”

Lahay was able to help arrange a port call two days later in Vancouver, where the ship was able to unload the rest of its cargo. A new captain came aboard and several of the crew members were able to return home, Lahay said.

The ship was required to remain in Canadian waters, however, leaving the remaining crew worried about what will happen to them. Some of the Hanjin Scarlet crewmembers’ contracts will expire soon, but with the company still trying to resolve its debts, it is uncertain whether they will be able to get off the ship, Lahay said.

Christmas cheer
A few days before Christmas, residents from nearby Pender Island visited the ship, bearing care packages and messages from local schoolchildren.

Then on Christmas Eve, several representatives of British Columbia maritime unions boarded the Scarlet, bringing a Christmas tree, gifts, a 40-pound suckling pig and bags of charcoal for roasting. Lahay had arranged for donations from the unions, while members of the Victoria Filipino Canadian Association gathered several frozen turkeys, leche flan (a traditional Filipino dessert), candy bars, fresh pineapple, canned goods, beer and champagne, cold-weather clothing, a PlayStation, a Monopoly board game, a basketball, and stockings stuffed with socks, toothbrushes, shaving cream and DVD movies for the union members to deliver.

“They gave us a very good Christmas,” Carlo Asturias, the Hanjin Scarlet’s chief cook, told the Herald.

Lahay pointed out the pig was a suggestion from Filipino-Canadian union members.

Jaewon Lee, the captain of the Scarlet, told Lahay that the crew were “very lucky” to know people were looking after them. “Thank you very much to the Canadian people,” he said.

While the ship is equipped with satellite internet, allowing the crew to keep in touch with their families, the waiting is obviously wearing on the men, Lahay said.

The company is providing food supplies and continues to the pay the crew, Lahay added, but has not given them any indication when they will be able to go home.

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