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Food For Famine Victims Stuck In Port

May 12, 1987

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ About 8,000 tons of food bound for famine victims in Africa and refugee camps in Jordan has been sitting for weeks in a ship stuck at Port Everglades because of mechanical problems, officials said.

Ironically, crew members for the mercy mission had to turn to local agencies for help after the ship’s refrigerator recently broke down.

″It’s a sad situation trying to get food to Africa, and now the crew needs food,″ port spokesman Tim Lewis said Monday.

The 416-foot Porto Coroni broke down about 25 miles off Cuba after leaving New Orleans in March and was towed into Port Everglades on April 3, crew members and port officials told The Fort Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel.

The ship’s owner, a Panamanian company named Defender Bay Shipping that sails out of Athens, Greece, apparently has abandoned the vessel and its 18- man crew, said harbormaster Robert Richards.

But the Tampa-based company that chartered the ship is trying to buy it and has decided to make the repairs, a company official said.

Afram Lines has sent engineers to Port Everglades to repair the generators and correct other mechanical problems. Afram president Graham Bott said repairs will cost about $500,000 and could be completed in 10 days.

″We’re trying to move this aid out,″ said Bott. ″We will not spare any expense to get this moving.″

The $1.7 million worth of food - pinto beans, cornmeal, soybean oil and flour - hasn’t spoiled.

The flour was donated by a United Nations relief organization and is destined for Palestinian refugees in Jordan. The other food was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and was to be distributed in Africa by World Vision, a humanitarian relief organization based in Monrovia, Calif.

″Considering that the situation in Mozambique is very grave, we want to see the food get there as quickly as possible,″ said Jerry Kitchel, spokesman for World Vision. ″We are very uncomfortable with the delay.″

Most of the crew members, from Greece and the Philippines, are owed wages for the past two months, said Howard Botts, director of the Christian Seaman’s Service, a Fort Lauderdale religious group that has helped the men.

″The conditions are very bad,″ said Angel Pesce, the ship’s cook. ″It’s rained inside the cabins and (the ship) is full of cockroaches and rats. We have been abandoned.″

Arthur Levine, a Fort Lauderdale attorney who represents Afram, said if Afram’s offer to buy the ship goes through the crew will be paid and sent home.

Meanwhile, port charges accumulate daily. Lewis said the ship owes $22,425 in wharfage and other fees.