Best of AP — Honorable Mention


AP exposes story of shipowners who abandon their crews amid financial difficulty

Captain of the cargo ship Monarch Princess, Ievgen Slautin of Ukraine, speaks during an interview in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Feb. 5, 2024. Teeters Agency & Stevedoring, which owned the vessel, became insolvent and stopped paying dockage fees in Florida. Slautin said although he was still owed around $15,000, he thanked God he was abandoned in the United States. "If it was in some other country, I could have been left there to simply die." (AP PHOTO / DANIEL KOZIN

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Helen Wieffering and Josh Goodman’s story on abandoned seafarers shed new light on a growing problem: Shipowners going bankrupt are increasingly abandoning their ships — and the sailors aboard them — in ports around the world.

Some abandoned sailors go for years without wages, stuck aboard ships as they try to recoup pay. The topline numbers were compelling but compiled on a messy list on a U.N. site. Aaron Kessler wrote scripts to scrape the site, and Wieffering dug deeper into trendlines.

Using the data, Wieffering and Goodman followed up on dozens of individual cases hoping to speak to the seafarers stuck on board. They spoke with ship inspectors from the Canary Islands to Turkey to learn about cases and try to arrange access. Wieffering learned of one man who had been stuck on the same ship for nine years and secured remote access to an interview and video. She also traveled to Washington state to report on fishermen from the Philippines who were locked in a bitter wage dispute with their American employer. Across the country in Florida, Goodman met with a Ukrainian man who was among a group of abandoned seafarers who suddenly had no way of sending money to families back home in what had become a war zone. In addition to Kessler, they had help from Ashraf Khalil, Sarah El Deeb and Kyle Marian Viterbo on translations and interpretations, Manuel Valdes on video, Lindsey Wasson and Daniel Kozin on photos, Allen Breed on presentation, Marshall Ritzel and Kevin Vineys on graphics and Sophia Eppolito on promotion.

Within weeks, the man Wieffering found was back at home with his family in Egypt, while the Seattle fishermen had received much of their backpay.

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