Merchant vessel sailing in the Indian Ocean

Drugs, broken labour laws or expired contracts: purgatory seems endless for the crew of the Indonesian-flagged container ship Meratus Jayakarta.

It started on March 19 2021, with the seizure of 2.04 kilos of heroin (worth 30 million Rupees) by the Customs Anti-Narcotics Section (CANS) of the Mauritius Revenue Authority (MRA) while sailing off Mauritius’ coast.

In addition to DNA samples taken from the two drug packages and the crew (22 Indonesian seamen), interrogations were carried out in order to discover the author who hidden the drugs in the ship’s air vents. Furthermore, due to the COVI-19 pandemic, the ship remained in quarantaine during the investigation.

Interrogation of the 22 sailors revealed other offenses that the authorities did not suspect.
Serious breaches of international maritime law were noted. Thus, legally, the maximum boarding time is set at 11 months and can only be exceeded with the prior consent of the seafarer concerned.

Here, 13 sailors had been on board for over a year and 2 sailors had been on board for over two years. The employment contracts having expired; these sailors demanded a quick return to their homes with their families.
This legal problem seals the container ship at the dock for an indefinite period despite the end of the judicial investigation.

Summoned by the South Indian Ocean Sea Directorate (DMSOI), the ship-owner of the Meratus Jayakarta agreed to relieve almost all of the crew during the vessel’s next stopover in Reunion island three weeks later.

Finally, the ship went back at sea on April 26 2021. The seamen concerned signed an amendment covering the period at sea until the stopover in Port des Galets (Reunion Island) scheduled for May 18, 2021.

Hopefully, they will be able to go back home after all these misfortunes.

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