Philadelphia unfreedom

Crew on a Greek-owned multipurpose ship have spent four months stranded on the Delaware River.

Some 18 Filipino crew plus a Ukrainian officer and an Egyptian master have been stuck on the Greek-owned 24,200-dwt multipurpose vessel Nikol H (built 1997) since 11 April, after a port state control (PSC) detention by the US Coast Guard (USCG), according to US and Philippines media reports. The ship had reportedly delivered a 13,521-tonne cargo of cocoa beans at Philadelphia's Pier 84.

By the time the PSC deficiencies were remedied, however, pier operator Dependable Distribution Services had had the ship arrested for unpaid wharfage, and other creditors including port agent GM Richards Enterprises and a time charterer piled on with further claims, according to today's report by the Philadelphia Inquirer. More recently, the USCG has returned to Nikol H at anchor in the Delaware River and found new deficiencies, notably engine problems, and placed the ship under detention again.

Court papers are cited as saying Derna is also in default to mortgageholder Bremer Landesbank.

No auction has as yet been ordered.

Because of stringent US immigration policies, the crew has been forced to remain on board for the entire period, leading US media to characterise Nikol H as a "virtual prison ship".

Reports cite the local Seamen's Church branch as indicating that the crew is supplied with food and the generators are running.

Nikol H belongs to Glyfada, Athens-based Derna Carriers, controlled by Evi Hatzidakis, whose fleet includes the three small multi-purpose ships 9,700-dwt Isis (built 2006), 20,700-dwt Lady Anthula H (built 1999) and Nikol H.

Nikol H was also detained for three days last November at the Polish port of Police near Szczecin with a list of 26 deficiencies, mostly safety related.

Running mate Isis has also spent much of this year in PSC detention, for 41 days following a January inspection at Silvertown in South Africa and for 31 days after calling at Falmouth in the UK in March.