Eight crew members of a Bolivian-flagged tugboat are appealing to the public for help after being stranded in Halifax in December.

The Mission to Seafarers charity, an Anglican not-for-profit group, is trying to raise between $12,000 and $15,000 to help the men return to their families in Honduras and El Salvador.

They say they have been abandoned by the owner of the Craig Trans tugboat, Gerard Antoine of Vesta Shipping Lines.

The crew members have been living in squalor on the boat since being stranded in Halifax last month. There are dead cockroaches on the floor, in the drawers and in the cooking area, and live cockroaches can be seen darting around the ship.  

"I have seen infestation of roaches and ants and so forth running through food, but nothing, nothing, to this extent," said Gerard Bradbury, inspector for the International Transport Workers' Federation.

Transport Canada impounded the tug in Halifax Harbour after finding numerous safety violations including issues with navigation equipment and faulty escape hatches.

According to people at the seafarers mission in Halifax, the Craig Trans has had problems before, with a spotty health and safety record around the globe.

"But you must understand this owner has done this before," said Bradbury. "This owner now, this is the fifth time in North America in the last two years that he has brought this type of trash in to facilities in Canada and the U.S."

No word from owner

Milton Tavora, the captain of the Craig Trans, told CBC News the crew hasn't heard from the owner in nearly a month.

"He ain't pay us yet," said Tavora. "It's going to be two months now, with January, now we don't nothing about salaries or nothing."

The crew said bills are piling up at home. They said many of their families don't have enough money to eat.

"Next month in Honduras all the children are going back to school, so if we don't get no money, the children are lost the whole year," said chief mate Pedro Andraba.

The crew's lawyer, Eric Machum, said they have few options and are looking to the community for help.  

"Their plan is to try and raise money from their consulate, from the community if at all possible, the [International Transport Workers' Federation] to see if they can get repatriated," said Machum.

The owner of the tugboat did not return calls from CBC News.