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Emergency medical evacuation finally granted for seafarer after Indonesian authorities reject multiple requests for help

21 Apr 2020

The crew member showed symptoms of having suffered a stroke while the vessel was in international waters 225 kilometres from the island of Sumatra. Despite repeated requests from the vessel’s Master, the Seafarers' Union of Russia (SUR) and Indonesia seafarers' union, Kesatuan Pelaut Indonsia (KPI), local authorities continued to reject appeals for emergency medical assistance before a police vessel was finally sent to evacuate the seafarer at around 9:00pm local time last night.

Yesterday, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) called on the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to urgently intervene and implore the Indonesian Government to respect international conventions and provide the seafarer with immediate medical attention.

“The Indonesian Government should have immediately facilitated the evacuation of this critically ill seafarer and provided the lifesaving medical attention that he desperately needed. We sincerely hope that his health hasn’t been further jeopardised by the delay,” said Jacqueline Smith, ITF maritime coordinator.

“Covid-19 restrictions must not be used to deny seafarers the right to medical care and treatment, or countries obligations under international law,” said Smith.

As a signatory to the ILO Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) the Government of Indonesia is obliged to provide emergency medical assistance and ‘prompt medical help and evacuation at sea for the seriously ill or injured on board a ship’.

Baklan Dmitry, Master of the WL Palekh, first requested a medical evacuation for Alexey Kulibaba at 12:30am on Saturday, April 18, after the seafarer showed signs of a stroke the day before. The seafarer’s condition worsened, and he exhibited signs of confusion, confused speech, pain under left shoulder, and left arm and leg paralysis. Although this was confirmed by a doctor from Global Voyager Assistance, Indonesian authorities including immigration and a local Covid-19 Task Force, refused a second attempt from the Master for permission to provide medical evacuation due to Covid-19 restrictions.

On Sunday, KPI actively communicated with the responsible Indonesian authorities and received confirmation that the vessel could enter the Port of Belawan to facilitate the medical transfer, but six hours before the vessel’s arrival the Harbour Master informed the Master that the decision had been reversed and advised him proceed to Singapore.

The ILO and IMO quickly intervened and contacted respective representatives from the Indonesian Government, and the medical evacuation was finally provided yesterday. 

“After personally working on this case for over 48 hours, we are relieved our appeals were heard and our member was finally granted access to the medical treatment that he is entitled to. Our thoughts are now focused on Alexey’s health, and we extend the best wishes of maritime unions worldwide to him and his family for his speedy recovery,” said SUR president Yury Sukhorukov.

“We want to sincerely thank the KPI and the ITF for their assistance, and the ILO and IMO for their urgent intervention. Without their support we might not have succeeded in securing the lifesaving emergency evacuation and medical care.

Sukhorukov reinforced that no country should use the current coronavirus crisis to ignore its obligations to provide urgent medical assistance to any seafarer in need.

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