Mr. Manshukh Mandaviya, Minister of Shipping, in a Webinar organized by Himachali Seafarers Association stressed on the standards of maritime training and stated, ““I want our training to be world class.”
A superior standard of maritime training, he felt would increase the demand for Indian seafarers. He added, “We are looking forward to your suggestions on the basis of which, in the coming days, we can see how our seafarers can attract the world’s attention. We also need to see how we can exploit the capacity of our seafarers. Today we have 2,40,000 Indian seafarers serving shipping industry. We need to see how we can increase this number to 5,00,000.” He believed that this was possible as Indian seafarers had, through their hard work, built up a reputation in international shipping.
He also disclosed that International Flights and Charter Flights for Seafarers were now allowed and any company or association could approach him for permission.
After a brief speech he fielded questions from the Webinar participants. Large number of Seafarers attended the online webinar including some from Ships.
Answering a question from Capt. Ankit Sharma, a sailing master, the Minister reassured that no Indian seafarers would lose his job due to coronavirus pandemic. “If any such action is taken, I will myself speak to International Maritime Organisation.”
He assured the seafarers that “It is the responsibility of our government to protect and support our seafarers wherever they may be. Whatever the issue may be, on the humanitarian basis our government will take action. The ministry will always be with you.”
Replying to Capt. Rastogi, regarding funding support, during this Pandemic, on the lines received by other industries he declared, “If there is any situation where a company is unable to spend money for medical issues we will find a solution and ensure that the burden does not fall on the seafarer.”
DG Shipping, Mr Amitabh Kumar, in his Keynote address stated that seafarers and shipping are already included in The Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), which was enacted in 1968. The ESMA covers transport service for the carriage of passengers or goods by air, land, or water.
He added that the government of India has released regular circulars from 16th march 2020 onwards, well before the lockdown was imposed. DGS asked training institutes to stop taking class and send their students to their hometown. The DGS was in regular contact with the health ministry too. The circulars were also released to follow safety norms for all sector/trade related facilitators like for shipping, ports, pilots, CISF, CFS, Customs etc., he stated.
Talking about the seafarers Welfare Fund Society (SWFS), he disclosed that the fund was audited and in the institutes’ corpus and it cannot be withdrawn. He said the interest amount will be used for the welfare of seafarers scheme, like insurance policy for the seafarers and their family he added.
He assured the participants that Indian Ports shall allow crew change at Anchorage with zero costs at all Major ports barring Mumbai and Goa. He disclosed that Indian Maritime Administration was among the first in the world which issued standard Operating Procedures for Seafarers and stakeholders as early as March 2020 to Fights against Coronavirus Pandemic. DGS clarified that any RPSL company refusing to conduct crew change at Indian Ports citing lack of funds for Quarantine facility can be reported to DG Shipping and DGS will facilitate using funds from the security amount of RPSL Companies. He also highlighted that from time to time circulars were released for extension of COC and STCW certificates granted to all seafarers; for those onboard and for those at home alike.
Congratulating Himachali Seafarers Association for organizing the Webinar, he said that Administration never thought that Hilly State like Himachal will have such a robust Association of seafarers
Dr (Capt.) Daniel, Deputy Director General of Shipping (Technical) answered queries of Seafarers and informed about Covid 19 Dashboard update on DG Shipping Websites. Several seafarers anxiety was calmed by Dr. Daniel who stated that seafarers need not worry about oral, certificates etc as the DG will consider the issues and solve it on humanitarian grounds.