August 14, 2014
Philippine authorities were working with U.S. officials to get shore leave for 17 Filipino seafarers aboard the “Nikol H” which has been stranded for months in Philadelphia due to mechanical and financial problems. The men were in good spirits and have been receiving pay despite not being allowed off the vessel. U.S. Customs and Border Protection won’t allow the mariners to go ashore without proper visas. But the agency will consider any requests for humanitarian parole. The “Nikol H” unloaded its cargo of cocoa beans in Philadelphia in April 2014. During a routine inspection, the Coast Guard ordered it to make repairs before leaving.
Complaints filed since then in federal court in Philadelphia allege the ship has been unable to pay for the repairs and now owed local vendors more than $1 million for that work, plus wharf fees and other supplies. Federal authorities have detained the ship since May 23 so the case could be heard. The ship owner was working towards a solution and settlement with respect to the arrest of the vessel so that it may be released in a timely fashion once repairs are completed.
The “Nikol H” has 20 crew members, including two Ukrainians and an Egyptian captain. 10 Filipinos have returned to their home country and been replaced by new crew members who have the correct paperwork to go ashore. Other crew members’ visas might have expired during the ordeal, since they are generally valid for no more than 29 days. Representatives of the local Seamen’s Church Institute have regularly visited the ship since it first docked in the Delaware River. The group has held Mass for Roman Catholic seafarers and provided items from phone cards, to wireless hotspots, to basketballs.