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Stranded in Halifax, tugboat’s sailors plead for airfare home

Crew members on the Bolivian-flagged tugboat Craig Trans visit the Mission to Seafarers centre in Halifax on Monday. The sailors are appealing for public help to get them home to Honduras and El Salvador after a month stranded in Halifax, without pay or supplies.

Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Eight crew members of a Bolivian-flagged tugboat who are stranded in Halifax on their cockroach-infested vessel are appealing to the public for help to fly home to Central America.

The Mission to Seafarers is trying to raise between $12,000 and $15,000 to help the men return to their families in Honduras and El Salvador.

Maggie Whittingham-Lamont, seafarer co-ordinator at the mission, said the men are desperate to return to their families after going four weeks without pay or supplies on the aging tug.

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The captain of the Craig Trans says federal inspectors detained the vessel after it entered Halifax harbour on Dec. 18.

"It's been nearly a month now. They're accruing debt while away … so our greatest wish is to raise money to send them home," Ms. Whittingham-Lamont said in an interview on Monday.

Captain Milton Tabora said Transport Canada detained the vessel due to safety deficiencies that range from water seeping through the decks to engine problems.

He said the vessel began its voyage in Central America and was travelling along the Nova Scotia coast to Montreal when a North Atlantic storm caused the crew to seek refuge in Halifax harbour.

The original plan had been for the small tug to pick up a ship in Montreal and tow it to Mexico, he said.

Mr. Tabora said the crew members have asked the boat's owner, Vesta Shipping Line of New Jersey, for help but they haven't had any response.

"I sent him an e-mail and I called him and he doesn't answer," he added.

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The vessel's owner could not be reached for comment.

Richard Grant, 29, from Honduras, said he's frustrated the tug's owners haven't helped the mariners.

"We're not getting paid, so the situation is very tough for us right now," he said.

Mr. Grant said he's not sure whether his two children in Honduras could return to school in February if he doesn't return home and provide for them.

Gerard Bradbury, an inspector with the International Transport Workers' Federation, showed journalists around the tug.

He opened kitchen drawers to reveal infestations of cockroaches. "There's thousands of them," he said. "They're living in it, they're sleeping in it, they're eating in it. It's incredible." He said he's rarely seen such poor living conditions for mariners.

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A spokesman for Transport Canada was unavailable for comment on the safety deficiencies or the agency's plans for the tug.

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