Israeli Ship Crew Members Refuse to Leave Vessel Until Salaries Are Paid

Crew of cruise ship Rio, anchored in Ashdod, have been holed up for the last two weeks.

The 320 crew members of the cruise ship Rio, anchored in Ashdod, have been refusing to disembark for nearly two weeks, even though they have practically no electricity or food. They're not leaving until they receive last month's salaries, they say.

The ship is in receivership and the receivers said they do not have the money to pay the salaries right now.

cruise - Ilan Assayag - July 12 2011
Ilan Assayag

"People came from all over the world to work on the ship. There are people from India who paid $3,000 to get to the ship. Who will pay them back?" a crew member said.

The crew member said the receivers offered them $200 in cash and plane tickets home, but the crew did not want to leave until they had been paid what they were owed.

On July 4, the ship ran out of fuel, and the electricity, air conditioning and other systems went out. More fuel was delivered only a day later, and this too is now running out, crew members said. They are not running the air conditioning in order to conserve fuel, they said.

A crew member said the staff includes 20 Israelis, 35 Egyptians, 66 Indians, 57 Filipinos, 63 Ukrainians, 16 Greeks, 15 Romanians, 14 Georgians, 2 Russians and 2 Turks.

The ship's receivers, attorneys Ilan Orli and Eran Shellac, said they would be able to pay the crew's salaries soon. They said the ship is owned by a company registered in the Marshall Islands called Eagles Holding. That company bought the ship from a company called Perla.

Eagles Holding did not pay the entire sum, and was supposed to pay off the rest later. But it reportedly did not meet its obligations to Perla, which sued for the rest of the money.

The American management company stopped operating the ship about three weeks ago, and the ship now has no documentation or insurance, receivers said.

Since the owners have stopped paying suppliers, the ship has not been refueled, they said.

In practical terms, the ship has been abandoned by its owners, the receivers said. The court appointed them to handle the ship and the crew, they said.

The receivers said they had fuel brought to the ship for the crew's sake, and were putting together an agreement to pay salaries and send the crew home.

The crew is owed a total of $600,000, which the receivers said no one has come forward to provide. They did manage to get a loan from Perla to give the crew some money and plane tickets home, the receivers said. They now plan to start looking to sell the ship.