The Government has set up a mechanism to safeguard the interest of Indian crew members on board Indian or foreign ships and sailing vessels especially in exigencies like a pirate hijacking or fatal accidents. Giving details of this in reply to a question in Lok Sabha today, Shri Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister of State (I/C) for Shipping said that the Ministry of Shipping has prepared a Contingency Plan and documented Standard Operating Procedures for this in consultation with the Ministry of Defence.
Giving details of the important steps which have been initiated to deal with exigencies like pirate hijacking and fatal accidents, the Minister said that
- Guidelines providing for elaborate anti-piracy measures have been implemented on Indian Ships.
- A Maritime Security Advisory has been implemented for restriction in engaging Indian seafarers on vessels trading solely in Gulf of Guinea.
- Naval escorts are provided by Indian naval ships in the Gulf of Aden since 2008. The DG Shipping, Gol coordinates this with the Indian Navy and Indian and Foreign flag merchant ships.
- Circulars are issued from time to time, laying down actions to be taken by Indian merchant ships, shipping companies and other stake-holders to deal with piracy & armed robbery incidents.
- The DG Shipping, Govt. of India has approved a piracy awareness module/training program to sensitize seafarers about piracy & armed robbery at sea.
- The Directorate General of Shipping has documented Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to deal with fatal accidents of Indian crew members aboard foreign vessels. In such cases DG Shipping, as Indian Maritime Administration, requests the Flag Administration to carry out an investigation, as per the provision of the IMO Code of Conduct of Causality Investigation.
The Minister further informed that the Government has taken several steps for the welfare of Indian Seafarers and their families, including setting up the Seafarer Welfare Fund Society. The objectives of the Fund are to provide welfare facilities in general to seamen at ports in India and to seamen engaged as per provisions of section 101 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 while at ports abroad and to invest in any security or keep in deposit with any bank and otherwise deal with any moneys of the Society in such manner as may, from time to time, be prescribed by the Central Government.
The SWFS has implemented five welfare schemes for the benefit of all Indian seafarers and their families – Survival Benefit Scheme, Invalidity Benefit Scheme, Maternity Benefit Scheme for Female Seafarers, The Old Age Benefit Welfare Scheme and Family Benefit Welfare Scheme
The details of funds released to seafarers so far (year-wise) is as follows:
2014-15 Rs. 59,905,416/-
2015-16 Rs. 53,195,875/-
2016-17 Rs. 69,386,431/-
2017-18 Rs. 65,688,546/-
The Government of India’s notification relating to mandatory deposit of welfare fund contributions by the Indian Shipping Companies and Recruitment and Placement Services License (RPSL) companies for compliance of regulation 4.5 of ILO-MLC, 2006, became effective from 1.4.2014 onwards. SWFS started receiving the welfare fund contribution from those companies w.e.f. 1 .4.2014.
Shri Mandaviya said that the Government has also formulated a grievance redressal mechanism. A feedback portal is available on the official website of Directorate General of Shipping and the CPGRAM PG Portal. These portals are monitored by designated officers of DG(S) and its allied offices.