The UAE's Federal Transport Authority (FTA) for Land and Maritime has rescued 60 men who were abandoned aboard merchant vessels in UAE waters by their owners.
The FTA helped the men, mostly from South Asia, receive their outstanding salaries and get back to their home countries after they were trapped for weeks at sea.
The authorities intervened after sailors on 14 ships appealed to their embassies for help after waiting for months for their salaries to be paid and discharge papers to be issued.
They could not disembark the anchored ships, many of which had run out of fuel and therefore had no air-conditioning, lights or running water.
After receiving the complaints, officials from the Maritime Transport Sector helped trace the ships' owners in various countries and enacted legal procedures to force them to pay the salaries of the men.
"A team was formed to look into the sailors' complaints and carry out the necessary investigations," an official from the FTA told Khaleej Times.
"As a humanitarian initiative, the authority always communicates with sailors in order to enquire about their living conditions and to provide them with support through maritime agents or charity establishments until their problems are solved," the official added.
Authorities communicated with the country of the ship's flag, the shipping agent and the owner of the vessel to address the suffering of the sailors.
In some of the cases, the maritime officials amicably settled the payment issues with the sailors, clearing their outstanding payments before transporting them back to their home countries.
In other instances, the authorities took legal action against the ship owners to ensure that the workers' payment issues were resolved.
The problem of sailors being abandoned aboard ships in the Arabian Gulf is a recurring one for the UAE, which is a major global shipping hub.
UAE officials struggle to help sailors and settle their issues quickly because of the difficulties in tracing ship owners or their agents, in addition to a lack of cooperation from the ships' flag bearer nations.
Most merchant vessels carry ‘flags of convenience’ from developing countries such as Panama, Liberia and the Marshal Islands, which have very few regulations and lack the resources to enforce regulations.
According to the FTA, many sailors also put up with unacceptable working conditions because they fear reprisals from their employer.
"Some sailors refrain from reporting to the authorities in time because of the fear that their employers will take arbitrary measures against them, thereby delaying their payments with false promises," said officials.
According to the FTA, although the owners of these vessels were foreign and the ships carry flags of other nations, the UAE - represented by FTA and other relevant authorities - spares no effort in providing support to the foreign ships stranded in the country's waters.
The FTA said that the problem of abandoned ships is a global one and occurs at most ports across the world, becoming a common occurrence in the global economy post-recession, wherein many maritime companies have been declared bankrupt.