A shipload of Russian sailors threatening to go on a hunger strike because of a pay dispute with their Hong Kong contractor have been accused of blowing cash on drink and women while moored at a mainland port. The 25-strong crew of the Russian-based dredger Kamchatskiy sent the South China Morning Post a fax saying they would stage a one-day fast today. They claim they are due three months' salary and food supplies from Viatech Engineering Limited. The unsigned fax said that if their demands were not met by February 22, a long-term hunger strike would begin. But Viatech Engineering Limited managing director Y. H. Leung, whose company chartered the ship and crew for 12 weeks of dredging work off Taiwan, claims the complaints are bogus. Mr Leung said the payment of wages was the responsibility of the ship's owners - the Kamchatka Salvage Rescue Centre, based in Kamchatka on Russia's east coast. 'We have suspicions over what they are doing with the food,' Mr Yeung said. 'Officials from the shipyard in Huangpu tell us the crew are often drunk and are womanising. 'We are told they are leaving the ship to womanise. 'Perhaps they are selling the food for drink. Drinking is a common problem among Russian crews. We can usually weed out the bad ones, and find the majority are hard-working and responsible. 'There seems to be a particular problem with this crew,' he said. The ship and crew were chartered late last year, but before they could start work Viatech had to send the vessel to a shipyard in the mainland city of Huangpu for repairs, Mr Yeung said. The Kamchatskiy has been berthed there for two months. 'We are seeking assurances from the owner that they will stay around and finish the job once the repairs are complete. And we may want to change the crew,' Mr Yeung said. Russian Consulate press attache Igor Lobanov said diplomats were aware of the situation but had not contacted the crew, the SAR contractor or the ship's owners. There had been a similar problem before, involving the same ship, but it had been resolved, he said.