I O N I A N   S P I R I T

The vessel arrested by the crew

 

In September 2012, with the financial crisis still in full swing, a group of 26 sailors from Montenegro, Egypt, Albania, Ghana, Romania, Ucraina and Serbia decided to occupy the Ionian Spirit, the ship where they worked, and hold it hostage inside the port of Brindisi, in southern Italy, in order to force the ship owner to pay their wages. They've been living aboard the ship for twelve months without money, food, electricity and help from the company, risking their lives and endangering the relationships with their families back home.And all of this for something that, in better days, would have been theirs to claim.


 

Life aboard the Ionian Spirit has become hard to say the least: power comes from a small generator provided by a private company and it's being operated only after 5 PM, so that the little fuel can provide enough energy to light the crew’s evenings. The biggest problem with this is the fact that basically everything on the ship is electrically operated, even toilettes, so that before sunset there is nothing working properly on board.

Hot water is not available at all and this has led the crew to develop peculiar and dangerous ways to heat up their water. The most impressive is an exposed heating coil. Directly connected to the power grid and put into a plastic bucket it allows a small amount of water to be heated. Its only downside is it can easily kill a man.

 

The Ionian Spirit is being held captive by the crew, but the truth is that the crew decided to live for eight months in a floating prison.All of them became prisoners of the ship, at the same time unable and unwilling to escape its metal walls.

 

The Ionian Spirit is being held captive by the crew, but the truth is that the crew decided to live for eight months in a floating prison.All of them became prisoners of the ship, at the same time unable and unwilling to escape its metal walls.

 

 

Some members of the crew worked as stewart, a very social job, always in touch with a lot of people, and now that the ship is totally empty, they spend their days in front of the computer, trying to catch on the only, faltering internet connection on board. 

One of the few friends they have is Ririco, the parrot of the ship. Now and then they take him out of his cage and Ririco walks around on the tables, but just like his human friends, he doesn’t fly away and never leaves the ship. He’s the 27th willing prisoner of the Ionian Spirit.

 

One of the peculiar aspects of this story was the utter silence the press kept over it. At some point, without any warning, the crew, announced that they would burn the ship if the company kept refusing to pay. It was a ten days ultimatum, followed by the piling of all the chairs of the ship on the upper deck. Thinking about how easily a fire can start and spread aboard a fully functional ship, the chair-made woodpile is a very real threat, but it was utterly ignored by the press. 

No newspaper wrote about it.

 

And on top of this, there are all the stories of the sailors involved. All the stress endured by them and all their families, threatened by the lack of a wage and a husband.

Copyright © Stefano Moscardini
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