Two rival captains and crews are claiming control of a Saint James Shipping tanker at Mocha in Yemen.

Efforts to reach the master of the 17,475-dwt chemical and product tanker Ariana (built 2016) and its owner were not immediately successful.

But sources familiar with the situation said the ship remains in the hands of Captain Syed Sajid Ali.

Email messages that TradeWinds has seen show that as of the evening of Monday, 25 July, owner Saint James was demanding that Syed hand over control of the ship to a waiting relief captain and crew.

But following instructions from mortgage holder EnTrust Global, the captain was ignoring the demand.

The ship is without fresh water.

Syed and the rest of the Pakistani crew are employed by Singapore-based Global Radiance Ship Management under contract to Saint James.

The stand-off over command of the Ariana is taking place in the war zone of Yemen, where the captain is seeking to avoid getting stuck.

But the ship cannot leave Mocha under its own power. It arrived under tow after a main engine failure and needs another tow to get out, or else repairs will be difficult to arrange in the beleaguered port.

Before the new master arrived with the demand to hand over the ship, Syed was urging stakeholders to step up to get the ship out of Yemen.

“Port Control is calling us to do blackout at night due to possible drones attack and navy boats are patrolling and firing around our vessel,” he wrote.

“I hold owners/managers full responsible for any harm/consequences which may occur due to above conditions to the crew of the vessel.

“I request all parties to supply fresh water/return of crew passports and departure of vessel from war zone area within 12 hours from now, otherwise I will send security and distress alert to all authorities including Coalition forces.”

The stand-off over the Ariana is part of a wider dispute. As TradeWinds has previously reported, New York ship financier EnTrust Global is seeking to repossess four vessels from Athens-based Saint James, controlled by London shipowner Sam Tariverdi.

It has become a many-sided fight involving numerous third parties including technical manager Global Radiance, suppliers, port authorities, Saint James’ former insurance underwriter the American Club and, not least, the International Transport Workers’ Federation, representing the ships’ unpaid crews.

Previously the dispute had centred on two vessels under arrest in Indian ports.

But the action shifted to Yemen on 25 July, when a boat arrived alongside the Ariana bringing a purported new crew and captain, who demanded to be given control of the ship.

Shortly afterward, in one of several email messages that TradeWinds has seen between the parties to the dispute, a Saint James management official confirmed the demand that Syed yield command of his ship to the new master, Captain Mahboub Abdo Alameri.

The Saint James official said the port agent was also on the boat, bringing money to settle the wage claims of the master and crew, who have been unpaid for more than two months and who are thus legally in a state of abandonment.

“[You] have requested multiple times for the repatriation and your performance have been questionable from the time of departure of the vessel,” the official wrote. “Therefore owners have arranged for the new crew to join and for your repatriation as you requested by you [sic].”

But EnTrust Global, through service provider Kroll Trustee Services, told Syed to stay put.

“Please be noted that we have received mail from Kroll that do not [sic] accept instructions from Saint James as they are no longer in control of the Ariana per the notice of repossession issued by Kroll,” Syed responded in a message to all parties.

Despite the reference to a notice of repossession, the Ariana is not under arrest, and the captain and others are keen to avoid such an outcome, given the precarious state of governance in Yemen.

Legal action in the Saint James dispute had earlier centred on high courts in Gujarat and Mumbai in India.

The 11,479-dwt Sol (built 2007) was arrested on or about 7 June at Hazira and the 18,041-dwt Aeon (built 2012) later on at Mumbai. A fourth ship, the 13,554-dwt Lua (built 2010), has been out of action for months at a shipyard in the Dominican Republic.

All four ships were financed by the same EnTrust Global mortgage loan.