An approximated 20,000 Indian seafarers sign on or off merchant vessels all over the world each month. Indian governmental agencies, namely the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MEA), the Home Ministry, and the Shipping Ministry have joined hands with shipping and manning agencies to repatriate an approximated 20,000 Indian seafarers stranded abroad.
Indians account for a massive 10% of the global seafaring workforce, making it the third-largest country in the world when it comes to the share of the global seafaring workforce. The majority of the 10% involved are those officers- namely of the deck and engine department, making them the brains behind the working and navigation if the vessels. Therefore, it becomes imperative that they need to undergo crew change so as to ensure the safe passage of the vessels.
Marine Insight had earlier reported how repatriation of around 10,000 seafarers involved in the cruise ship industry was underway in Mumbai. Those working on cargo, oil tankers, containers, and bulk carriers weren’t as lucky as those involved in the cruising industry. For them, the only ray of hope is chartered flights arranged by shipping companies.
Due to the pandemic and its lockdown imposition which included a ban on national as well as international flights, the crew change process got hampered. India has kept commercial international flights suspended till date, even after the government declared the partial opening of the economy. But the government allowed specially chartered flights for seafarers.
Earlier, Colombo and Doha had emerged as the global hub for repatriation of Indian seafarers stranded abroad. Now, with Singapore, one of the major seaports in all of Asia opening up and easing crew change process, a large crew swap plan has already been sprung into motion by companies and manning agencies.
Qatar Airways flights are primarily being used to ferry Indian seafarers to Doha, which has emerged as the transit point. On June 11, Indigo flights flew 129 seafarers between Delhi and Doha. SpiceJet is managing seafarers between India and Colombo. The Sri Lankan port of Galle, which is strategically located between shipping routes of South East Asia and West Africa is proving to be a pivotal port for a crucial crew change of Indians.