Four Years Into a Voyage and Miles From Land, a Tanker Crew Is Still Stuck Aboard

Nearly four years into their odyssey at sea, a 5-member crew on the oil taker MT Iba is tantalizingly close to shore, yet still unable to set foot on dry land. Bleary-eyed and wearing tattered clothes, the men are exhausted from an ordeal that has kept them from their families and aboard the 5,000-ton vessel long after its owner abandoned it in the Gulf. What started out as a regular seafaring job turned into what the men call a nightmare, when the tanker’s owner, Alco Shipping, fell into financial trouble and stopped paying their salaries 32 months ago. The crew was left to fend for itself, relying on donations from charities they contacted for food and hygiene supplies. The crew is collectively owed around $230,000, with the company offering to settle with the sailors for $150,000. If they don’t accept the lower offer, they will remain onboard until a resolution is reached, as the vessel provides their only leverage against the company. Maritime laws also mean that if the crew abandons the ship, they could be detained and held responsible.