While media attention has focused on the 14 Estonians hired for shipboard anti-piracy duty that have been detained in India since October, other Estonians working for the US-headquartered Advanfort company are stuck in the United Arab Emirates.
A crew of 16, including three recruited from Estonia, is waiting for thousands of euros of back wages and can't travel home as the company is holding their passports, reportedly to arrange visas, the Õhtuleht newspaper said.
One of the men working on the Seaman Guard Arizona said the company told them that because of the India affair, where the country's coast guard detained the Seaman Guard Ohio and held its crew more than two months before being read formal charges, Advanfort is now bankrupt.
The guard said that travel to Dubai from their current location would cost 400 euros and the flight to Estonia around 2,000 euros, while wages added up to 4,000 euros per person.
The men said that after agents failed to show up with their passports and visas, they were on the verge of jumping ship and blending in with the local population in the UAE. Ultimately they decided not to do so.
"We currently know that 13 visas but they can't return home as the passports are still in the hands of agents whom we haven't seen," the guard said.