The 11-strong crew of the MT Maro have finally been released after being held for two years in Nigeria.
Revd Boet van Schalkwyk, a chaplain for international maritime charity, Sailors’ Society, has been working with the National Seafarers Welfare Board of Nigeria (NSWBN) and offering his support to the seafarers.
Boet said, “Sailors’ Society is greatly relieved to hear that the crew have been released after such a traumatic time. We are pleased we could offer our help, alongside the NSWBN, to ensure that the crew has been cared for.”
The ruling was made on June 30 and, after securing emergency travel documents, the crew arrived in Delhi, India on July 3 to be reunited with their families.
The seafarers’ ordeal began in July 2014 when the ship’s engine failed and it drifted into a stretch of Nigerian waters. The ship was arrested and accused of straying into Nigerian waters without permissions. The Indian crew, with a Nigerian captain, found themselves imprisoned and there began a series of court battles to prove their innocence.
The families of the MT Maro crew had no idea what had become of their loved ones until communication was finally established in August 2015.
Boet and a fellow chaplain were given the go-ahead to visit the prisoners and were able to offer welfare support and counselling in September 2015. It was the first interaction the crew had had with the outside world since their arrest.
“We were able to provide them with friendship and a listening ear, as well as practical items such as books and money for toiletries,” said Boet. “The horror was still there and frustration was high. We wanted to give them hope.”
Boet, who also manages Sailors’ Society’s Crisis Response Centre for seafarers who have experienced trauma, kept in touch with the seafarers and their legal team. After a long-running trial the seafarers’ release was finally secured and Sailors’ Society chaplains local to the seafarers will be available to offer support and welfare where required.