A Spanish fish factory ship lying off Ullapool is the focus of an international industrial standoff over claims of unpaid wages, which is set for court action today.

Six Indonesian crew and a Chilean officer on the Enxembre argue they are owed £32,838 for up to 10 months' work and have called in the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) maritime union to help.

The ITF said it had instructed solicitors to take legal action in the courts today to prevent the vessel leaving Scotland without its Spanish-based owners paying the crew and repatriating them.

Norrie McVicar, ITF's UK inspector and co-ordinator, said yesterday: "The owners tried to get the men off the ship and booked flights for them to go home, but without their money. So I have now given the go-ahead for the legal people to take steps to arrest the vessel. That's a direct result of the way the company has tried to do things."

A representative of owners Elcon Leisure, however, insisted the normal practice is for wages to be settled in full, minus advances sent to the crew's families, once the vessel returns to its home port of Vigo.

The Enxembre was called the Atalya until earlier this week. She was escorted to Ullapool by a Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency vessel last month because of the lack of safe boarding ladders.

On July 20, Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) inspectors insisted the ship stay in Wester Ross until serious safety issues were addressed. It is understood this included an expired fishing safety certificate. The MCA's detention notice was lifted on Monday and the disgruntled crew were concerned they would be forced back to sea against their will.

According to the ITF, this was because the owners changed the ship's name from being a British flagged vessel to one registered in St Kitts in the Leeward Islands. The crew were worried the change would have implications for their jobs.

The union said that when Mr McVicar went on board the crew members told him that not only had they been unpaid for months, but they were also afraid the owner had ordered the captain to flee the port - with them as unwilling passengers.

Police were notified of their concerns but a spokesman for Northern Constabulary said they were not involved.

Mr McVicar said last night: "Until these crew members are paid what they're owed, this vessel stays where it is."