Ship’s crew is bound for home

By Warren Cornwall

Herald Writer

Gerardo Ramirez is going home.

The 58-year-old Guatemalan sailor, stranded on a malfunctioning boat in Everett for several months, then hospitalized here with a stroke, will be boarding a plane for Guatemala this morning, according to a shipping union investigator.

Ramirez and four other foreign shipmates will be returning to their home countries, after the ship’s owners agreed to pay for their travel and wages, said Lila Smith of the International Transport Workers’ Federation.

They leave behind the Marlin, a 160-foot cargo ship mired in legal and regulatory troubles for months. Federal immigration officials have said the five men were in the country illegally, and that the ship’s owners might have broken the law by bringing the sailors to Seattle to sail the Marlin.

The U.S. Coast Guard has grounded the ship for a host of repairs, after its navigation system started malfunctioning, and it was brought to the Port of Everett in late September.

A crew of six, including Ramirez, then stayed on the boat until late November with dwindling food supplies, Ramirez said. They eventually alerted union officials to their situation, and several have since left.

A representative for the ship’s owners has accused the union of exaggerating the situation. She could not be reached for comment Monday evening.

Media coverage of the situation last week prompted an outpouring of charitable donations to the crew.

The breakthrough came when the owner put up the money for the men to return to their Central American countries, Smith said.

"The five of them who are going home are the ones who had their visas revoked because of the owner’s negligence," she said.

Immigration officials could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

The ship will still have three crew members on board, all of whom have legal immigration status, Smith said.

You can call Herald Writer Warren Cornwall at 425-339-3463 or send e-mail to cornwall@heraldnet.com.

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