Seafarers from India are having testing times as their jobs are put being put risks in addition to the prevailing COVID risks. This is mainly due to the delay in government policies related to denial of permission to run chartered flights that in turn would facilitate crew change.
Crew change was stopped since February owing to global lockdown. Organizations such as IMO and ILO have come forward and asked its member states to treat seafarers as key workers providing essential services that form the basis of the global supply chain and have also asked to exempt them from travel restrictions.
Finally, the Indian government seems to have allowed shipping companies and crew managers to send and bring back Indian crew members on charter flights, facilitating the crew exchange.
8 ship managers and crewing firms have come forward to charter flights for seafarers. Those who are signing off will be brought back to the country and those who are signing in will be moved to specified hubs where they’ll board the ships. Currently Doha and Colombo will serve as global hubs for crew exchange.
Maritime Association of Shipowners Shipmanagers and Agents (MASSA) and Foreign Owners Representation and Ship Managers Association (FOSMA) in association with National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) and the Maritime Union of India (MUI) jointly initiated a crew change exercise to transport Indian Seafarers across the globe through chartered flights.
The shipping companies and their associations must ensure that resources are fully utilized so that there’s a reasonable per-ticket cost for travelers. About 50000 Indian Seafarers are to board ships in foreign ports via Doha and Colombo hubs over the next 2 months.
The chartered flights are arranged by VR Maritime (Chennai-Colombo-Chennai) on June 3, Synergy Marine (Kochi-Colombo-Kochi) and FOSMA and MASSA (Delhi-Doha-Delhi) on June 3, 7, 11.
Meanwhile, approximately 2520 Indian seafarers have suffered loss of their jobs as well (This number is based on the difference between the numbers of those signed off and signed on as given by the Directorate General of Shipping).
The managing director of VR maritime services, also a member of governments National Shipping Board, Captain Sanjay Prashar told that the difference cannot be counted in the form of jobs lost, as the cruise line shutdowns are global in the wake of the health crisis.
Need of the hour is to make sure that the seafarers on board are safeguarded along with protecting the employment opportunities for those who look forward to join the ships by facilitating a smooth crew-exchange process. This is important since the shipping logistics and seafarers form an important part of the supply chains that are essentially the backbone of global economy.
References: outlookindia.com | thehindubusinessline.com | Lloyd’s List