By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
August 12, 2014
PHILADELPHIA – Filipino seamen have been stuck inside their ship which has been docked in Philadelphia for four months now.
Despite their situation, they remain in high spirits.
After failing to pass a routine maintenance test, Nikol-H – a 700 foot cargo ship that delivers cocoa beans – has been stranded at Pier 84 in South Philadelphia since April.
An official crew list obtained by ABS-CBN News confirms that the ship has 17 Filipino seamen, ages to 23 to 54, an Egyptian captain, and two Ukrainian crew members.
The US Coast Guard seized the cargo ship because its owners, Derma Carriers, allegedly failed to pay its docking bills that have now cost more than a million dollars.
Most of them have visas when they arrived, which allowed them off,” said Peter Stube, executive director of the Seaman’s Church Institute. “The visas, however, only good for 29 days, so once the 29 days limit, then they were restricted to their ship.”
Thanks to Reverend Peter Stube of the Seamen’s Church Institute, the church group has provided the Filipino crews with a cell phone and internet connection to communicate with their families.
Stube says about half of the number of seafarers who seek help from them are Filipinos.
Consul Art Romua of the Philippine Consulate in New York and community leaders in Philadelphia who visited the Pinoy crews Monday say they are well taken care of.
“Nirequest kasi naming na sila’y magsama-sama na Makita naming isa-isa, masaya masaya ang morale nila ay OK pa rin, “said Hermie Aczon, the consulate’s warden in Philadelphia, “Como siyempre hindi natin alam talaga, siyempre hindi natin alam talaga, siytempre nalulungkot din sila sa pamilya nila.”
Community leader Ruth Luyun says while the Filipino crews continue to receive their paychecks and basic necessities such as food and drinks, they may be stranded in Delaware River for longer than expected, so the Seaman’s Church Institute has requested the Customs and Border Patrol to grand them humanitarian extension of their visas.
“Gusto rin nila makalabas, kaya ngayon ay tinutulungan sila ng Seaman’s Church Institute para mabigyan sila ng Humanitarian Parole para sila’s makalabas sa barko.
Consul Art Romua says the next step is for the ship to be seized by a mortgage company, auctioned, and then it will be repaired. Once that is done, the US Coast Guard will release the ship. When that will happen is still not clear – it may take weeks or even months.
“They’re happy in the sense na, ummandar yung sahod nila sahod nila, andun lang sila sa barko,”said Romua, “Of course hindi sila makalabas pero ontime yung sahod nila, sumasahod pa rin sila, in fact OK lang kami rito kahit walang trabaho, may sahod naman kami.”
Keep them there inside the vessel or deport them ….. US has too many illegals already .
Pere ko, if you are single, time to jump ship…Take chances.,for sure, you will have a better future here in America……..