The Minister of State for Shipping and Finance Shri Pon Radhakrishnan in a written reply to a question in Lok Sabha informed that to deal with potential maritime security situations arising out of any hijacking at sea of merchant vessels with Indian crew, an Inter-Ministerial Group (IMGO) was set up by the Government under the Ministry of Shipping. The Government had also approved a Contingency Plan for dealing with piracy and hijacking of merchant ships and constituted a Committee of Secretaries on Anti-Piracy and Hijacking at sea (COSAPH) under the Chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary. In addition to this, the following anti-piracy measures have been put in place for Indian flag merchant vessels and sailing vessels:
- Guidelines for anti-piracy measures to be implemented on Indian Ships through the issue of Merchant Shipping Notice No.1 of 2011 dated 14.1.2011. The guidelines provide for elaborate anti-piracy measures (Best Management Practices), including a safe house/citadel for vessels.
- Banning of sailing vessels to ply in waters south or west of the line joining Salalah and Male through Merchant Shipping Notice No. 3/2010 dated 31.3.2010.
- Advisory issued by Directorate General of Shipping vide Notice No. 35-NT(2)/2017 dated 6th April 2017 for not transiting through the Gulf of Aden.
- Naval escort provided by Indian naval ships in the Gulf of Aden since 2008.
- Enhanced vigil by the Indian Navy in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and westward upto 65 degree east longitude.
- Active participation by India in the security meetings of the International Maritime Organization, Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) and other international fora.
As regards fatal accidents, for Indian ships/vessels caught in distress/distress-like situations due to grounding, collision, sinking, flooding, fire on board, engine failure etc., the Government of India has constituted Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres (MRCCs) to deal with such situations and necessary rescue measures are undertaken through various agencies.
The Minister further informed that a Seafarers Welfare Fund Society has been set up for the welfare of Indian seafarers and their families. Some of the objectives as set out in the Memorandum of Association of SWFS are as follows:-
- To provide and maintain a fund by the name of the Seafarers’ Welfare Fund;
- To prepare the annual budget of income and expenditure in respect of the Fund for submission to the Central Government.
- To sell, lease, mortgage, surrender, exchange, dispose of, or otherwise deal with, all or any part of the movable or immovable property belonging to the Society or in its possession or occupation, subject to such limitations as the Central Government may from time to time impose;
- 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.
- To give the pension, gratuities or charitable aid to employees or ex-employees of the SWFS or to their wives, children or other relatives or dependents.
The functions of the SWFS are as follows:-
- To implement welfare schemes for the retired seafarers and their families on completion of age of superannuation/voluntarily retired seafarers permanently medically unfit for seafaring job.
- To implement welfare schemes for the families of the seafarers.
The achievements of the objectives of the SWFS are as follows:-
The following welfare Schemes are being implemented by the SWFS for the Seafarers-(i) Survival Benefit Scheme (ii) Invalidity Benefit Scheme (iii) Maternity Benefit Scheme for Female Seafarers. These schemes became effective from 21.08.2014 onwards.