The Maritime Union of India (MUI), representing Indian merchant navy officers, has issued a two-week ultimatum to authorities to address the persistent issue of denying shore leave to Indian merchant marine seafarers at numerous ports across the country. The MUI has threatened to initiate protests, including dharna and hunger strikes, if a resolution is not reached.
The MUI’s stance on denying shore leave is supported by the Maritime Association of Shipowners Shipmanagers and Agents (MASSA) and the Foreign Owners Representatives and Ship Managers Association (FOSMA).
Shore leave refers to the authorized period during which seafarers are permitted to temporarily disembark from their ships while docked at ports after completing a demanding voyage from the last port. Shore leave is considered a fundamental right for seafarers worldwide.
The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), established by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 2006, explicitly states that seafarers should be granted shore leave to promote their health and well-being. It also emphasizes the necessity of providing accessible shore-based welfare facilities where available.
The importance of efficient access to shore facilities and shore leave for seafarers’ well-being is further recognized in ILO Conventions about seafarers’ identity documents. India ratified the MLC in 2015, making these provisions applicable within the country’s maritime industry.
Capt. Tushar Pradhan, representing the MUI, expressed deep concern that Indian seafarers are being denied the opportunity to go ashore in their country’s seaports. Speaking at a media conference held in Mumbai, Capt. Pradhan highlighted the many challenges seafarers working on merchant ships face, including extended periods away from their families, unpredictable weather conditions, delays caused by adverse weather, alterations in routes by ship owners, and charter changes. These factors significantly impact the mental and physical well-being of seafarers.
The denial of shore leave has far-reaching consequences on seafarers’ mindset, health, and overall well-being. It can harm their performance and morale, potentially leading to undesirable incidents onboard and at sea. The MUl stressed that acute boredom and mental and physical fatigue are dangerous conditions that impair concentration and increase frustration, posing risks to the seafarers, the ship, the cargo, and the environment.
Seafarers require shore leave to fulfil various essential needs, such as purchasing necessities, meeting family and friends, utilizing shore facilities, and rejuvenating their mindset. As social beings, seafarers benefit from occasional interactions with others, particularly after enduring long and arduous sea voyages.
The union drew attention to the contrasting treatment of passengers on cruise vessels who are granted shore leave. They questioned why bona fide Indian seafarers, holding valid Seafarers Identity Documents (SID) issued by the Government of India, are being denied the opportunity to step ashore. At the same time, passengers travelling by air can enter the country and disembark.
Confining seafarers on board their ships during port stays can be likened to placing them under house arrest. The unjust denial of shore leave leads to frustration and loss of morale and has severe implications for seafarers’ psychological and physical well-being. Families also suffer as their loved ones endure these circumstances. This unhealthy state of affairs must be addressed promptly to safeguard the rights and welfare of innocent seafarers.
The lack of shore leave and the absence of a refreshed mindset have contributed to numerous accidents caused by fatigue. In some cases, seafarers have experienced depression, feelings of worthlessness, and, tragically, even loss of life.
“This grave issue demands immediate attention at all levels. There is no justification for failing to implement a logical solution within the framework of regulations, including security considerations,” emphasized the MUI.
The denial of shore leave to Indian seafarers undermines their rights and compromises their physical and mental well-being. Urgent action is necessary to rectify this situation and ensure that seafarers are granted the rights and support they deserve. The MUI’s request to the authorities serves as a wake-up call to address this pressing issue promptly and in compliance with international labour and maritime regulations. The well-being of seafarers should remain a top priority, recognizing their invaluable contributions to global trade and the marine industry.
References: Hans India, Bizz Buzz
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