After 9 months of being stuck, final crew members on stranded ship sent home

Posted at 1:32 PM, May 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-31 18:10:11-04

The remaining six sailors of the 18-member Newlead Granadino crew were sent home Wednesday after being stuck on the stranded ship in the Baltimore Harbor for nearly nine months.

The asphalt tanker experienced major engine issues after sailing into Baltimore on September 20, 2016. The vessel was detained by the Coast Guard until repairs could be made.

The ship's owner, NewLead, couldn't pay for repairs so the bank that owned the mortgage on the vessel took over.

The bank sold the ship to Eurotankers Inc. The sale was finalized on Wednesday, and the six men were transported back to the Philippines.

"So, from today, we will actually start to take over the vessel and reactivate it," said Evangelos Skalidis, assistant technical manager with Eurotankers Inc.

Skalidis estimates that repairs will take about a month and the vessel will return to sea afterwards. A new crew will board the vessel on Wednesday. The ship was also renamed the "Asphalt Trader." 

"We have 14 vessels and now one more, and we will start the process to start being in good service with safety, following the rules and regulations, Coast Guard regulations, etc.," Skalidis said.

He did not disclose how much Eurotankers Inc. paid for the Newlead Granadino.

RELATED: Some men sent home but ship in Harbor still stranded without repairs

News of the sale was welcomed by the sailors who endured less than desirable conditions. When they first arrived at the Harbor, they were running out of food and water. The men resorted to fishing in the Harbor for food. The boiler was also broken throughout the winter months.

"At last we can go home. We can get together with our families, my wife, my son and daughter," said Delfin, one of the Newlead Granadino crew members.

The men were unable to come on shore because they lacked proper documentation. 

"Because of security rules, even if they have U.S. visas, they can't just go call a cab and run-off to Walmart, they have to have escorts. So, that's a lot of what we do and then the other part of it is just being a friendly face that's not there to inspect them," said Reverend Mary Davisson with the Baltimore International Seafarers' Center.

The men were especially grateful for Davisson and Barbara Shipley with the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), who intervened when the men felt deserted and desperate. There was also an outpouring support from the community.

"This crew has been amazing. The conditions that they've lived with and tolerated is just unbelievable. They've been so happy and they've been so positive and it's just a great day coming," said Shipley, an ITF inspector. "It's been overwhelming. The generosity of the people of Baltimore, it's just been amazing and I'm very thankful for everyone that's stepped up and helped out."

Shipley saw that the men were paid in full, even given a small bonus for sticking around.

And despite being stuck at anchor for months, some of the men are even considering returning to the vessel when it sails again under new management.

"Give me one month to relax then out there one year again," said Hilario, the third engineer on the Newlead Granadino.

"That's the life of a sailor. We complain when we're on-board, and when come home we want to come right back to it that's just how we are ," said Shipley.

The Urban Pirates along with several local restaurants also donated and delivered food to the men while they were stranded.

RELATED: Before Newlead Granadino left stranded, two other vessels were detained in harbor for several years

This isn't the first time a ship has been stuck in the Harbor for an extended period of time. 

In 2008, the Snow Bird was deemed unseaworthy and detained for around two years. And in the 90s, a Yugoslavian ship named the Durmitor was detained for five years after it was caught up in a political situation surrounding the Bosnian War.