Iran oil tanker crew halts unloading on salary issues-sources

Last Updated: Wed, Feb 13, 2013 10:10 hrs

By Nidhi Verma

NEW DELHI, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Crew members on board Iranian oil tanker Crystal have stopped unloading in India's Mangalore port in protest over non-payment of salaries, three sources said on Wednesday.

Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd managing director P. P. Upadhya said six crew members are on strike, although he didn't give a reason.

"About three-fourths of the vessel was unloaded and they are neither discharging the remaining cargo nor going back. But talks are in progress," Upadhya told Reuters.

A shipping source said there are six Ukrainian crew members on board the Crystal, who had told him they have not been paid for as long as four months. It was not clear why their salaries were not paid, but the source added that the crew members are refusing to accept payment in rupees.

"They have unloaded only 70-80 percent of the cargo but they refused to unload the remainder because of salary issues," the shipping source said.

The aframax vessel is owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC). NITC did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

Iran is facing increasing problems paying for goods and services as European Union and U.S. sanctions choke its oil revenues and financial conduits. The sanctions, aimed at forcing the OPEC member to curb its nuclear programme, more than halved the country's oil exports in 2012.

The West believes the programme is meant for making an atom bomb, an accusation Iran denies.

Sanctions make it difficult for Iran to repatriate the money it receives for its oil, although it can use the cash to pay for goods in the purchasing country.

According to Mangalore port's website, the vessel arrived on Sunday, Feb. 10, and was berthed on Feb. 11. Calls to the Mangalore Port chairman's office were not answered.

The shipping source and a trade source said that Iran had cleared payments to the sailors up to Dec. 31, but the crew had refused to discharge the remaining cargo as they had not yet received confirmation from their banks of the payments. (Additional reporting by Daniel Fineren in DUBAI; Editing by Michael Urquhart)

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