A CAPTAIN who spent 16 months stranded on a merchant ship in Shoreham Harbour finally headed home last week, as the vessel departed for Ghent in Belgium.
The final remaining crew member of the MV Independent, Mikhail Polyakov, who had not been paid since the ship’s owners hit financial problems, received his wages and was able to return to Russia.
The ship was towed from the harbour on the midday high tide by Ocean Tug Barracuda and arrived in Belgium on Thursday.
It was originally believed the ship was going to be scrapped, but there is now some hope its new owners may be able to restore it.
The Independent was one of five vessels owned by Shoreham cement firm Dudman, alongside the Shoreham, the Cementina, the Thames, and the Torrent.
When part of the Dudman group went into administration in January, 2013, the ships and their crews were stranded around the UK and Europe.
Residents supported the crew with gifts of food and supplies, while they were locked in legal battle over pay with the ship’s owners.
Shoreham Port harbour master Julian Seaman said: “The remaining crew, under employment of the new owner, left the vessel before she was towed out to sea and have now returned home.
“Shoreham Port wishes the vessel and her new owners all the best.”
The ship was originally held in port over unpaid bills worth £60,000.
John Green of charity Apostleship of the Sea said he was glad the ship had finally been sold and that the crew had been paid and were able to go home.
“This is a reminder that while we rely on seafarers for much of what we consume, they and their families are often out of sight and out of mind,” said Mr Green.
Since January, 2013, Apostleship of the Sea has provided practical and emotional support to the Independent’s crew.
Its chaplain and volunteers visited the stranded seamen regularly, giving them food and working with other agencies to ensure their case was resolved.
Volunteer Clare Hobart thanked those residents who had gone out of their way to bring the crew food and company during the ship’s stay in Southwick.
“In a way it was a positive ending as they finally got their pay after some very stressful times,” she said.