Seafarer free after 12 years

Abdul Nasser Saleh is finally home with his family in Egypt, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is delighted to announce.


Twelve years ago, Abdul Nasser Saleh took a job as an engineer on board the Al Maha vessel. He then spent a shocking 4,000 days stuck on board.

By the end of his ordeal, Abdul, a Syrian national, was owed over US$178,000 in wages and had not been paid for nine years – but he knew that if he stepped off the ship, he would be unlikely to ever see a cent. 

The ship entered the port of Jeddah in June 2022.  The ITF urged the Saudi Arabian maritime authorities – as the only hope and last resort – to end Abdul’s suffering caused by years of gross negligence by the ship owner, Abalkhail Marine Navigation, and the complete failure of Tanzania to uphold its duty as flag state – the country where the ship is registered.

Thankfully, in March 2024 things started to move, and in April, Abdul was given his life back. He told the ITF about his joy at being reunited with his family: “I cannot describe the feeling I had [leaving the ship]. I felt like I could run home to Egypt from Saudi Arabia. That I didn’t need to take a plane because I was so happy.”

While welcoming Abdul’s release, the ITF has also condemned this case as a huge failure of the maritime industry and policymakers to ensure the basic human rights of seafarers.

A relentless fight for rights

“I was in a great distress. Living conditions were extremely poor. And that can’t be compared to my stress and my family’s,” Abdul told the ITF. 

“Imagine the absence of the family’s breadwinner, who cannot provide them with moral nor physical support. My son had a heart attack and my wife suffered from a nervous breakdown. I couldn’t provide any help to them,” said Abdul.

“The story of Abdul Naser Saleh is a clear example of something that should have never happened,” said Mohamed Arrachedi, ITF Flags of Convenience Network Coordinator for the Arab World and Iran

“At the ITF, we will never accept the abandonment of any seafarer as just one of those things. Nor do we accept the impunity with which some ship owners deal with their crew as if this is normal.” 

“We witness seafarers with no contracts, unpaid for months, and where the mere call to the ITF or to one of our unions to seek assistance results in threats and pressure. 

“Yet seafarers are bravely standing up for their rights. Industry and maritime regulators must listen. The flag state and port state have a very clear and central role to play to uphold their obligations,” said Arrachedi.

“I fought relentlessly to obtain my rights,” Abdul explains. “But had it not been for the efforts of Mr. Mohamed Arrachedi, I wouldn’t be home right now. There were a lot of threats and suffering.

“I advise every seafarer who works on ships in the Arab world that if they face any problem, they should contact the ITF to get assistance and obtain their rights.

“I thank the ITF and Mohamed Arrachedi very deeply.”

This article is shared by courtesy of ITF

For more articles about seafarers, click here.

Narjiss Ghajour

Editor-in-Chief of Maritime Professionals
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