Insurers cut off medical treatment for 35 sailors detained in India

London - Six months after the incident, 35 sailors are still waiting to get support from their insurance companies.

London - Lost homes, lost possessions, wives leaving: these are just some of the consequences that the sailors from different nationalities have to face while waiting to hear from their insurers as their claims have been delayed and denied.

Other risks these men face include joint and back pains, lack of sleep, malnutrition, contagious skin diseases, depression, and an attempt at suicide. Together with their ship, the 35 crew and guards of MV Seaman Guard Ohio was detained by the Indian authorities during a strong cyclone last October 12, 2013. Some of these men include British, Estonian, Ukrainian and Indian nationalities. The crew was charged with bringing weapons to India.

However, AdvanFort, the maritime security firm that was conducting anti-piracy operations at the time, contended that the ship was arrested while it was outside the Indian territorial sea and that the ship only aimed to refuel after the strong cyclone Phailin caused the vessel to be nearly out of fuel.

Right now, the Seaman Guard Ohio crew is still struggling to survive in a foreign land at a third world country far away from their loved ones and their homes. This has caused their mental and physical health to deteriorate, and it has also caused them to be out of jobs and means of living for six months. Their finances are also dwindling at an alarming rate, and some have no choice but to be placed out of homes while wives, mothers, children, and families back home are all suffering equally from the ordeal. Out of depression, the ship’s chief engineer Siderenko Valeriy from Ukraine had attempted to commit suicide during his first month of being held as a prisoner. According to Mumbai Mirror, Valeriy had tried to hang himself from the mast of the vessel. On the other hand, BBC reported that the chief engineer of the ship attempted to take his own life by strangling himself with his own shirt.

An account of the living conditions of prisoners from one of the seamen stated that the swarm of mosquitos has prevented them from getting any proper sleep. It was also mentioned that they were provided with pain killers for insomnia that has been banned in India due to its serious side effects. Other upsetting details provided by the men include being served with jail food that has been prepared by prisoners who have highly contagious skin diseases, tuberculosis, ascariasis, candidiasis, dermatomycosis, and other conditions, and that the food consists of boiled rice and boiled vegetables containing flies, cockroaches, and hairs. This has resulted in being unable to eat resulting in considerable loss of weight, lack of nutrition and rapid deterioration of mental and physical health.

“While the sea men have been suffering under the mentioned conditions for around six months in a third world country, AdvanFort has been contacting its three insurance companies to claim the medical treatment benefits for its sailors. AdvanFort has purchased an insurance program for their sailors which include General Marine Liability, Marine Employer Liability, Marine Professional Indemnity, Travelers Maritime Personal Accident and Illness, and P&I policies. These policies were issued by Travelers and Lodestar, and were provided by Aon. According to the US-based leading maritime security firm, the company has paid more than $700,000 to Aon, Lodestar and Traveler in premiums for the last two years. However, after submitting valid legal and wage claims that are payable by the policies they have purchased over 10 months ago, AdvanFort is aghast to report that all of their claims have been denied by the insurance companies. AdvanFort Acting President Al Farajallah speaks about the incident: “To add insult to injury, last month, the insurers, in a letter to AdvanFort suggested, that we turn to charity organizations for needed funds to pay for the hotel, food and medical treatment of the 35 men,” Farajallah reported. “It is truly sad and disheartening that the three organizations we believed we can turn to and who promised to help us in times of need turned out not to care after all when actual situations arrive,” Farajallah observed. Currently, 34 out of the 35 men have been freed on bail but are expected to return to court by June 10 to quash all the charges made against them. It was reported that the men might go back to jail if their housing, clothing and medical needs are not provided. “It’s such a shame to see our men suffer like these. We, along with their loved ones and families back home in UK, Estonia, Ireland and India are urging Aon, Lodestar and Travelers to have a heart and to help the 35 seamen regain their good health so that they may go back to their families in a healthier state. It’s the least they can do after selling these policies,” Farajallah stated” said the company in a statement.