Seafaring fathers: a long way from home on a bittersweet day

800px-Wake_(Kilwater)_behind_a_ferry

Today, on Father’s Day in Canada, we have a case that stands as a salute to seafaring fathers everywhere, written by ITF Canada Coordinator Peter Lahay, who dedicates the post to his own dad. William Peter Lahay served aboard BC’s ferries, and later as a cook aboard West Coast tugs. Peter was at sea himself when he received a call saying his father had passed away. Peter writes:

Yesterday, I woke up to an email from a desperate Filipino seafarer aboard the Cyprus-flagged Paraskevi, a Greek-owned bulk carrier that’s alongside the Fraser Surrey docks in Vancouver. His father died on May 31st and he had been begging for weeks to get off the ship to fly home, comfort his family, pay his respects and bury his dad. The shipowners were claiming they had been trying to get him home, initially from Hawaii and now from his latest port of call, but had been unable to get a visa for his replacement. The email I opened when I woke up Saturday was his plea to the ITF for help.

He had been waiting 20 long days at that point to bury his father. I knew what had to be done, and I did it. I’ll spare the details, but can report that the company is no longer concerned about getting the man’s replacement onboard. They are concerned that we will take action if the man is not flown home.

He leaves today.

I will think of him this Father’s Day as I sit down to lunch with my own kids, and as I salute my own dad.

I’m posting some of the email chain from the case here, with details removed for privacy. It’s a glimpse into one part of the cost that seafarers, away from home for births and deaths and most of the celebrations that the rest of us enjoy, pay for their work in moving the world’s goods.

—————————————————————————-

 Sent: 18 June 2016 01:39

To: Peter Lahay; Vincent Giannopoulos; Karl Risser
Subject: Request for Disembarkation due to death of my beloved father
 
Dear Sirs:

A pleasant day to you!

I am Electrician (name deleted), a Filipino residing in Philippines, presently onboard the MV Paraskevi (IMO:9254111), we are now in Fraser Vancouver Canada loading grains and our departure will be on June 19 sailing to Alliance Vancouver Canada loading again grains for 3 days then depart to china for discharging.

Sir I tried to communicate with you to hope that maybe you could help me or give me some advice because now I don’t no what to do and I’m really confuse and have a lot of worries. Anyway, my beloved father died last May 31 while the vessel is in Hawaii USA and on the next day I made a letter sent to the principal requesting for an emergency and immediate repatriation signed by both captain and chief engr. A constant communication and follow up calls (via telephone and vessel’s satellite phone) has been made by myself and member of my family to the manning agency in Manila Philippines regarding my reliever and repatriation. The repatriation in Hawaii was not materialize because as explained by the principal that time is extremely limited to find my reliever with US visa as well as I don’t have a Visa but I understand that this is beyond principal’s control and efforts, however, the principal advise me in writing that they are obliged to postpone my repatriation in next port (which is Fraser Vancouver Canada). The vessel left Hawaii last June 7 and arrived in Fraser on June 15. However, for your information only, last June 5, (just to remind the principal of my intention to go home and to re-emphasize to them again that  my family is waiting for my arrival to set the schedule of burial of my beloved father), I wrote another letter requesting for repatriation in Canada. A follow up calls to Manila office has been constantly made.
On June 9, I learned from Manila office that they already had an approved reliever pending and waiting for the advise/approval from principal to proceed for the application of Canadian visa. As per Manila office advise, visa processing is 7 working days. I was so disappointed to know that it took few days to received principal’s approval to proceed with visa application. Only last June 15 that my reliever applied for visa which I think that it’s too tight and its late to catch up vessel’s departure in Alliance Canada (ETD: June 22). Death of an immediate member of family, is I believe, considered as an emergency and urgent matters. Due to urgency, I was really expecting that I will be repatriated right away upon our arrival here in Fraser last June 15, but to my dismay I really wonder why only when we arrived here that’s the time they had process the visa wherein there was enough time to process it earlier. With this, I think that they didn’t pay attention and no urgency at all or maybe there was lapses on their side which is so discouraging on my part because of my situation.

I am worried and afraid that repatriation here in Canada may not be realistic because of visa issue. This time I had no other choice and option in mind, so, in that same day I speak sincerely to chief engr and get his approval to disembark here with or without my reliever . I explained to chief engr how difficult is my situation while my entire family and my beloved father is still waiting and hoping to be home ASAP. Chief engr is very supportive for my request to disembark  and I made a letter of disembarkation (dated June 15, signed by captain and chief engr) sent to the principal. In my letter, I begged for their kindest approval.  I am not satisfied with the response from the principal because they still stick to arrange repatriation here in Canada depending on the visa of my reliever and they don’t even give tentative date as to when. So this is hanging and pending…. And I sensed lack of support from the principal…my morale is so down…

Sir please I need your advice on how to handle this properly, my intention is to go home ASAP, I could no longer afford to wait another couple of days. Sir can I still disembark here in Fraser? What about my documents, is captain oblige to return my docs? Will the agent or principal assist me when I disembark? What if nobody will assist? What about the repatriation cost who will shoulder?
Anticipating my heartfelt thanks for your prompt advice, assistance and help.
Hoping to recieve your reply so soon…. and I really appreciate within tomorrow…
God bless and more power to you!
P.S. I will send to you in separate email a photos of my letters, reply from principal and my contract with detailed informations just in case you will need as reference.
Respectfully yours,
(name deleted)

After offering condolences, letting the seafarer know he would investigate and take next steps, Peter was able to board the ship by shortly after 9 a.m. the same day to let the man know the company had agreed to fly him home the next day.

His email from Sunday morning:

Date: 06-19-2016 02:09 (GMT-05:00)
To: Peter Lahay
Cc: Vincent Giannopoulos, Karl Risser
Subject: Re: Request for Disembarkation due to death of my beloved father

Dear Sir Peter,

I was stunned and surprised by your utmost attention and prompt action. I almost can’t believe to see you personally here in the vessel this morning and assured me of your full support. Sincerely speaking, upon seeing you I really feel a savior came… because I am in a very bad situation that I thought my employer can help me but unfortunately it became worsen in this time of sadness.

Anyway, sir I just want to express a million thanx to you…most especially the ITF organization!

By the way, I already have with me the airplane e-ticket and my flight schedule going to Philippines will be on June 20 and arrive on June 21.

I am now rest assured that I can pay my last respect to my beloved father and see him one last time. The schedule of burial is now being set 2 days after my arrival.

Sir I will advise you once I arrive home.

Once again, thank you so much and more power to you!

Very sincerely yours,
(name deleted)
MV Paraskevi

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One response to “Seafaring fathers: a long way from home on a bittersweet day

  1. Your sufferings should be given enough attention and you expressing your thoughts this way helps other seafarers know that they are not alone and help is on their way just ask the right people.

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