THE OWNERS of the ITF-focused bulk carrier Eleen Sofia have hit back at claims made by the Federation and, by implication, Daily Cargo News, in a lengthy rebuttal issued by a Bulgarian public relations company.

The letter refers to a media release issued by the ITF in Australia on 7 May and covered in large part by DCN (and other maritime publications) the following day.

The full text of the three-page letter can be read here but key points include assertions that:

  • Eleen Marine “has fallen victim of an international group of extortionists … [using] a mechanism through which to defame the shipowner in front of all institutions in the industry”.
  • “One of the unions of the transport industry, the ITF, and the author of the article, has been involved directly or indirectly as a tool in this mechanism.”
  • “All the allegations in the article do not correspond to reality and the “information” contained therein is totally untrue.”
  • “We express our high degree of concern regarding the completely groundless statements and false accusations made by ITF and authors of this shameful “article”/media release. Furthermore, we are also more than concerned by the fact that we have been reached by other shipowners who also claim to have been fallen victims by the same scheme. We urge the international maritime community to take actions to defend each other, because today it is Eleen Marine but tomorrow could be another company.”

DCN and the author are flattered by the suggestion we are pawns of international conspirators, but make the follow points:

  • Considerable effort was made to contact relevant authorities and interested parties to ascertain the verity of some of the ITF claims. For example, it was quickly established the arrest of the vessel in Mackay had nothing to do with alleged crew conditions on board, the arrest was over a separate commercial dispute, and had already been lifted by the time the ITF media release was issued.
  • On- and off-the record conversations also established there was no record of the vessel’s crew raising concerns with ports, agents or AMSA during its earlier Australian voyage. It was also noted Eleen Sofia had passed its then most recent PSC inspection without detention.
  • It was next to impossible to trace and confirm the vessel’s ultimate owners. Various registers list the ship as financed by a US company, registered to a Marshall Islands single ship company, managed by one domiciled in Bulgaria, head chartered by UAE interests (as disponent owners), voyage-chartered by Australians, and crewed, under a Russian master, by Ukrainians, Chinese, Indonesians, Burmese and Georgians. The commercial dispute that prompted the Mackay arrest was between an American commodity giant and a British ship broker and charterer.

DCN has been advised that Eleen Sofia last week passed AMSA’s PSC inspection in Gladstone with only minor deficiencies recorded, and the ship was not detained nor further delayed in loading its scrap cargo for Bangladesh.

The ITF has declined to make further comment at this stage.