By Jeff Dixon
Getting paid your regular wages to stay in a hotel for months without working might seem like a dream come true. But if someone is staying in a hotel in Beaumont, hasn’t seen his family in months, has no transportation and doesn’t know when he’ll be allowed to go home, it seems more like a nightmare.
Seven seafarers are doing exactly that at the MCM Eleganté in Beaumont right now. The men have been staying at the hotel since the first week of September.
The seafarers are material witnesses in a pollution investigation regarding their ship, the Niebla.
Helping them adjust to this situation has been Father Sinclair Oubre, diocesan director of the Apostleship of the Sea.
During their first month Father Oubre arranged transportation for them to and from Mass.
“We’re trying to make their stay as enjoyable as possible. We picked them up and drove them to Mass at Cristo Rey, Beaumont, for a few weeks, and now the hotel is taking them every Sunday,” Father Oubre said.
The ship the seafarers were on, the Niebla, was in the Port of Port Arthur and had steering problems – problems which led the Coast Guard to inspect the ship.
The oil and water separator was found not to be in working order. Because of the malfunction it came into question as to how the oil and water separator was being used while the vessel was at sea.
At a grand jury hearing Feb. 3 in Beaumont, indictments may be handed down. It’s unclear when any of the seafarers will be allowed to go home. Until then, the men must remain in the United States.
The company they work for, Ership, has been paying their full wages and hotel bill during their stay and has given them a daily allowance of $50 for meals.
Father Oubre said that the best thing the Apostleship of the Sea can do is offer a shoulder for the seafarers.
“Nothing has happened since the end of September. These guys are just sitting their cooling their heels waiting for something.
“We’re trying to be there for them as much as possible. We’re checking on them every day and visiting them as often as we can,” Father Oubre said.
A trip to NASA is currently being organized for the seafarers by Father Oubre.
“Being on a ship for six to eight months and then being involved in this process for another seven or nine months can be a real challenge. We’re just trying to break up the monotony. Aside from Sunday Mass these guys haven’t really left the hotel,” Father Oubre said.
Father Oubre said he’ll be down at the federal court house during the grand jury hearing offering prayers and moral support for the sailors.
The AOS is supported by the Catholic Faithful in Southeast Texas through the Bishop’s Faith Appeal.
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