BERBERA (Somalilandpress) — A crew of fifteen seafarers are stranded onboad a cargo ship, the MV Layla-S, in the Somaliland port of Berbera for the past five months and the sailors are said to be facing serious risk as their health deteriorates.

The captain of the ship, Mr. Sarath, who is from Sri Lanka, spoke to Mohamed Saed of Berberanews by phone on Saturday, and said that their ship has been stranded in the port for the past five months without charge.

Mr Sarath said he does not know exactly why they were kept in the port but local analysts believe a local firm, Omar International [Company], may have filed a maritime action asking Sahil regional authority and Berbera Port authority to obtain the ship for damages.

Omar International has lost a lot of assets including motor vehicles onboard a cargo ship, MV Mariam Star when it caught fire in it’s upper deck in early September of 2009 and the two cargo vessels both belong to Al-Hufoof Shipping & Forwarding. The local authority and Omar International accuse the crew and skipper of MV Mariam of not cooperating with the port authority to put out the flame by switching the ship’s engine off. They argue a lot could have been done if the crew did not switch the engine of the ship off.

Despite issuing a press release of it’s own, suggesting the dispute was between the local authority and the ship, Omar International is believed to have authorized the local authority to obtain the ship for compensation it wants from Al-Hufoof Shipping & Forwarding.

Omar International company is locally owned influential company while Al Hufoof Shipping & Forwarding is Dubai based firm. When the skipper of MV Layla-S contacted Al Hufoof Shipping & Forwarding, they told him: “you were carrying goods for Somalis, the people who detained you and your ship are Somalis, we have nothing to do with it”.

“We arrived in Berbera on the 17th of August 2009, after unloading the cargo, as we were preparing to depart we were told by the Sahil regional authority that we were being barred from leaving, but they did not tell us the reason nor charges against us, because we believe we have executed and handed in all the appropriate documents”, he said.
[ad#Google Adsense (336×280)]

He said the Sahil authority constantly tells them that the matter is under review despite the fact that the local maritime court has issued a statement indicating that they were free to go but he said, nothing has happened for the past five months.

Mr Sarath requested urgent help from aid agencies, the international community and the Somaliland government insisting the crew are in desperate need of health care and lacked access to the basic necessities. He said the crew of Somali, Indian, Pakistanis and Sri Lankans had not received adequate food, water or medications and a number of them are on the verge of committing suicide while many are gravely ill. He also added that, the crew have not received any wages from Al-Hufoof Shipping & Forwarding for the past five months. He described the living conditions on the ship as “hell”.

So far no rights group have contacted them and the people are getting frustrated by the minute. Mr Sarath made personal plea to India, Sri Lanka and Somaliland authority to interfere in the situation.

The ship is not docked at the port but in the middle of the ocean and the crew have not been on land for five months and time is running out on them, unless helped urgently many of them could die.

The governments of India, Somaliland, UAE, Sri Lanka and Pakistan need to resolve the situation for the sake of the crew if Omar International and Al-Hufoof Shipping & Forwarding would not resolve their dispute for the last five months.

By Mohamed Saed Abdullahi

Berberanews, 23 January 2010 (Somali)
Somalilandpress, 24 January 2010 (English version)

Picture: MV Mariam Star burns near the Berbera Corridor, Berberanews


  1. Don't Oomar international insure their goods, they should within Srilanka under the international trade law they would be able to claim the damages, if the crew are affected this bad and their health deteriorate it will damage the reputation but to mention criminal aspect of Oomaar international.

  2. There should be criminal charges against Omar International and Al-Hufoof shipping if anyone dies on board the vessel. If it's not the two companies but the local port authority then they too should face criminal investigation.

    Somalilanders should not let this happen in their soil, we need to free them.

  3. Oomar international should insured theier cargo if they didnot then the ship cant hold responsibile their burn cargo, i think they are destroying the name od our nation, this shouldnot allowed to happen first of all, but now the loacl authorities and port manager to release the vessel as early as possible to save guard the live of crew.