Urban Pirates starting weekly meal deliveries to men on stranded ship

Eighteen men have been stranded on a ship in Baltimore for nearly two months. They are the crew of the Newlead Granadino, and they sailed into the harbor on September 20.

“The Newlead Granadino is a tank ship that experienced an engine problem on its way to the U.S. When it got to the Port of Baltimore the Coast Guard conducted a port state examination and we found additional problems and had to detain the vessel in the port,” said Commander Charles Bright, Chief of Preventions with the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capital Region.

The men can't leave because of engine issues, and the crew, a number of them from the Philippines, can't come on shore because they don't have visas. In addition, if they were to abandon the vessel they would forfeit their pay.

“There's a lot of repairs that need to be done and the company, NewLead, that owns and operates the vessel is having some financial difficulties, they have all but abandoned the vessel. They cannot afford to put food and water on board to take care of the men, the men have not received salaries in five months,” said Barbara Shipley, an inspector with the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF).

With no place to go, and repairs set to take several months and cost upwards of a million dollars, Shipley’s organization has stepped in to assist the crew. She is one of only about 140 inspectors around the world.

The ITF does routine inspections on ships, checking for humane conditions and that the seafarers are being paid. Shipley was called in when problems were reported on the Newlead Granadino.

“I was on board September 20th when she arrived in port. [I saw] a lot of tired men. They had been broken down at sea for 11 days, and before getting into port their rations were very low. They were visibly very dirty because they were out of water,” she said.

There were several reports that the men were also seen fishing for food in the harbor.

“That's when I kind of wanted to help out because they may not know, but we know what the fish is like in there,” said Kyle Dembowski, general manager with the Urban Pirates.

The pirates have also come to the crew’s aid by delivering supplies and some of the best Italian food in Little Italy from La Tavola. They visited the crew for the first time two weeks ago on their pirate ship.

“The looks on their faces like what's happening was priceless,” said Captain James DiMaggio with the Urban Pirates.

Knowing what it's like to work on the water, the pirates said they couldn't imagine being stranded so far from home.

“First, being away from your family for that long and being away longer because you broke down and aren't being helped, I don't really have any words for it,” Dembowski said.

The pirates put out a Facebook post asking for donations, and a number of Fells Point restaurants answered their call.

ABC2 was the only news team onboard for their second delivery. The crew of the Newlead Granadino asked not to be shown on camera, but said they were excited to eat some hot food and were frustrated that they’re still stuck.

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The Urban Pirates said they would be making weekly deliveries as long as they could get to the vessel.

“I actually made a pamphlet this time to give to them because we haven't had much communication just so hopefully they can call us and let us know what they need,” DiMaggio said.

The Seafarer's International Union (SIU) in Canton and the Baltimore International Seafarers’ Center (BISC) in Fort McHenry have also been in touch with the crew and providing them with supplies.

Reverend Mary Davisson is the chaplain and executive director at the BISC. She's been visiting with the men, delivering more supplies, and praying with them.

“I prayed giving thanks to the generosity of the people of Maryland because there's been such a wonderful outreach. I prayed for their courage and for their families. And I prayed that we could help people understand that they're not looking for a handout they're looking for justice,” Davisson said.

ABC2 reached out to NewLead, the Greek company that owns the ship, but did not hear back.

So, while the men await what comes next, Baltimore is making sure that they continue to have food on their plates and the feeling that they're not alone.

“When I say, ‘Captain, what else can I bring for you? What else can the people do?’ He says we don't want to take advantage of the good nature and the hospitality of the people of Baltimore,” said Shipley.

She added that there is hope for the crew and that the bank that owns the mortgage on the ship is taking care of some of the problems. According to Shipley, all of the men were paid in full on Tuesday, six men are going home, and with the generous donations from the community there is plenty of food on board.

If you’d like to support the men on the Newlead Granadino or the other 2,000 crews that visit Baltimore, the Urban Pirates, the Seafarers’ International Union and the Baltimore International Seafarers’ Center are all collecting donations.

Their contact information is below:

Baltimore International Seafarers’ Center:

"Please email baltseafarers@aol.com or call 410-685-1240 before attempting to donate any items, so we can match donations to the actual needs of the crew.

Financial donations enable seafarers’ centers to serve crews year-round. Our less eventful crew visits and the free rides we provide enable us to build the trust and relationships necessary for responding to a crisis such as this. So you may wish to consider a general donation to Baltimore International Seafarers’ Center, 1430 Wallace St., Baltimore 21230; or Apostleship of the Sea, c/o Msgr. John Fitzgerald, Archdiocese of Baltimore, 320 Cathedral St., Baltimore 21201.”

The Seafarers' International Union office in Canton agreed to accept and store non-perishable donations at 2315 Essex St., Baltimore, Md. 21224. Their hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday. Please direct any questions about non-perishable donations to Elizabeth Brown at 410-327-4900.

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