They've called it "living hell," understandably. Five men who have been stuck at sea for years—some since July 2017—have finally set foot on land. The Guardian explains they had been crewing the 5,000-ton MT Iba when the oil tanker's owner, Alco Shipping, ran into financial troubles. It stopped paying them and abandoned the ship in the Persian Gulf. That was roughly three years ago. Reuters reports the men, who came on board at various points since July 2017, have since relied on a maritime charity for their survival. "We are like slaves ... We’re begging for food," said Vinay Kumar, an Indian engineer. Both the tanker's anchors eventually gave way, and late last month the tanker ran aground in the United Arab Emirates.
The men were owed $230,000 in back pay, and the Guardian reports that point has now been settled, paving their way to head home. The men will receive $165,000, and on Monday came ashore to meet with reps of Alco Shipping. Half the money was paid to them, and the men then reboarded the ship. They will continue to perform key duties on it over the 15-day period in which it is towed to Dubai. They'll then receive the rest of the money and be repatriated. As for why they didn't leave at some point over the last several years, Reuters says it was about more than holding out for payment; under maritime law, "if they abandon the ship, they could be detained and held responsible," it reports. (Read more stranded ship stories.)