The Year of Living Dangerously: a seafarer’s gallery

Nord Explorer New Years

Our tale — and our photo gallery — open with New Year’s celebrations aboard the Nord Explorer as the FOC ship sails for Vancouver in 2015. As they approach, the ITF has already been alerted to non-payment of wages and is working on the case — a bright note for the crew as they look ahead to 2015.

Seafarers are made of steel. They learn fast that the single most effective weapon against adversity is solidarity. They learn there is safety and joy in building community and joining hands for the months they spend away from home and across the miles that separate them from family. This week, we posted a story of the togetherness and perseverance that saw the many crews of a single slippery shipowner — Keymax Maritime —  survive a tough year at sea, aided by a worldwide fleet of ITF inspectors. Today, we present a gallery of their photos of the truly harrowing year. Our thanks for the photos to, among others, Christopher Jayin, Dyordz Dela Pena, Juan Luis Villalon Jones  and Bobbi Shipley.

Nord Explore, Lions Gate bridge Vancouver

Nord Explorer arrives in Vancouver. ITF’s Peter Lahay has already secured $50,000 advance payment at Stockton prior to ship’s arrival, with $106,00 US still to come for on-board wage payments and for families desperately awaiting money at home.

Nord Explorer.@ vancouver

All secure at Cargill grain terminal in North Vancouver. Relieved crew takes much-needed shore leave with money in their pockets before departing to Peru and Chile.

Nord Explorer Panama

Crew generally enjoy transitting the Panama Canal — but wages are starting to fall behind again, with nearly two months owing. Four repatriating crew are heading home to Philippines from Panama; Peter has made sure that full payout was made before they left the ship. Vessel is now heading north to Philadelphia.

Nord Explorer, tie up in Norfolk:Philly

Nearly secured in Philly and almost ready to discharge. ITF Inspector Bobbi Shipley is en route to meet the crew.

Nord Explorer parted grab in no

While discharging salt, a massive grab (bucket) drops when one of its wires breaks — a sure sign of a vessel run by a company under strict financial controls, and a possible sign that maintenance of critical equipment is not being done. And typical of your slipshod, run-of-the-mill FOC operator.

Nord Explorer holdrepair

The grab has left the cargo hold with severe cracks, but by a stroke of good fortune, no one was hurt. An aerial shot taken during repairs offers a sense of the sheer enormity of these vessels.

Bobbi Shipley, crew of Nord Explorer

It’s always a good moment when crew and ITF inspectors come together on wage claims. For the crew of the Nord Explorer, their own willingness to demand the monies they were owed, and the persistence of the ITF inspectors (including Bobbi Shipley, sixth from the left) supporting them, solidarity paid off — in $22,595 US they were entitled to. The money represented a full month of on-board wages.

Philly backpay claim

Cash is delivered. Pay day!

For Dyordz (left), his contract of about 10 months is up and it’s time to go home, cash in hand.

Nord Explorer.packing

His bags are packed, always a happy moment.

Nord Explorer.repat

Dyordz is on his way — with a souvenir shirt from Vancouver and a solid understanding that the ITF is always there for seafarers.

Philly text

Text to Peter from Dyordz.

Philly text 2

Text to Peter from Chief Cook Christopher, who remains on board for voyage south and east.

Nord Explorer America

Wages paid, cargo hold repaired, cargo discharged, the ship sets off down the Delaware River — only to run aground and require emergency dry-docking.

Nord Explorer.bottom damage

Picture yourself in a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade scars. This is the bottom of the Nord Explorer after its scrape.

Nord Explorer.praying for better luck

Wages behind, ship run aground, equipment breaking — what will it take to reverse this bad karma?

Nord Explorer.basketball2

Playing basketball is a favourite past-time for Filipino seafarers. Drydocked with an empty hold means no worry about cargo — and stunning layup possibilities.


Sweet backboard. Nord Explorer Warriors indeed.

Nord Explorer.Panama

Temporary repairs completed, the vessel transits the canal again and heads for dry-docking in Hiroshima, Japan. Long voyage ahead.

On board Nord Trust in Chile

Meanwhile, on a sister ship in the troubled fleet, crew of the Nord Trust contact a seafarers’ mission, which alerts Peter in Vancouver that on-board wages are one-and-a-half months behind. The vessel is departing for South America; Peter presses now-familiar Keymax managers to demand payment on arrival at Chilean port of San Antonio, and contacts Japanese ITF Coordinator Fusao Ohori and Chilean Inspector Juan Villalon.

Nord Trust crew, Chile

Happy crew of Nord Trust enjoy copies of the latest ITF Seafarers Bulletin magazine — but more importantly, they enjoy the fact that more than $42,000 US in onboard wages has been delivered by Juan.

Nord Trust crew, Chile

Nord Trust crew gather to say goodbye to Juan after a successful joint effort in securing wages owed.

Nord Explorer cooling off

Meanwhile, back aboard the Nord Explorer, an intimate glimpse of shipboard life on a hot afternoon.

Nord Explorer, Manny P

Crew find creative ways to stay in shape during a voyage — and when there’s a big fight coming up, they get inspired. Which one is Filipino national hero Manny Pacquaio and which one is Floyd Mayweather?

Nord Explorer grub2

On the long voyage east, Chief Cook Christopher takes pride in keeping crew stomachs happy and full.

Nord Explorer me and my bow

Lunch was lovely. Christopher, take a bow.

Nord Explorer bicycle

Nord Explorer arrives at Tsuneishi Dockyard in Hiroshima for repairs. Crew refuse to go home until all final leave pay and wages are paid in full. After an extremely long ocean voyage, they take some well-deserved time ashore while waiting for monies to arrive.

Nord Explorer dining out

Cook Christopher celebrates more than a month at sea by dining out.

Nord Explorer hirofood

For a cook who finally steps ashore, nothing beats a meal that someone else had to prepare.

Thank you text from crew of Nord Explorer

Text from Christopher thanks Peter and the ITF team, including Juan, Fusao and Bobbi. The final payment was $106,245.87 US for full settlement of onboard wages and leave pay.


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