AMICIE deliberates on Mariners welfare’s shortcomings and achievements

                                                                                                                                                                                                      - Prisilla Nadar

In general the industry has widely spoken about seafarers’ welfare, the question now arises how much has been done? Shedding some light on this Association of Maritime International Commercial Interests & Expertise (AMICIE) – a think tank of professionals from the maritime industry organised a webinar on 03rd July titled Mariners Welfare. 

Capt Sudhir Subhedar inaugurated the session – Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) exists for the welfare of the seafarers, but how it remains effective. Capt Kamal Chadha, MD, Marex Media Pvt Ltd introduced the speakers.

Opening the panel discussion, Capt Rajesh Tandon, President, Vships expressed “if the MLC is followed in letter and spirit, it will effectively ensure that seafarers will get the minimum. The National welfare board for seafarers exists. However, they need to be more active, and have this welfare schemes in place, sooner or later.”

Capt Shiv Halbe, CEO, MASSA, spoke on The Collective Bargaining Agreement that highlighted its importance from; Seafarers’ employment and social rights.

The panel speakers delivered a detailed presentation on Work and rest hours, wages, seafarer’s responsibility, Gender discrimination etc.

Speaking of gender discrimination, India’s Marine Pilot Ms Reshma Nilofer said, “We women in maritime are busting the myth though it is not bed of roses for women in the industry. We need equal opportunity to prove ourselves. We need more mentoring. Please do away with your biases and prejudices.”

Capt Y Sharma started with the quote saying, ‘seafarers are our assets,’ and continued with how seafarers treated in corporate world.

Giving government perspective Capt BB Sinha, Advisor, The Great Eastern Shipping, said, “We must understand that, whenever we frame rules, it has to be in context with national legislature.” He mentioned that, Indian Seafarers have been looked after well by enacting various legislations by the Government of India. Capt Sinha also highlighted various schemes available for seafarers.

Capt Sanjeev Verma, Managing Director, Landbridge Ship management Hong Kong Limited raised several questions to the panelist.

Capt Ramesh Ramakrishnan, Chairman, Transworld Group, Mr Manoj Yadav, General Secretary, FSUI and Dr Sanjay Bhavnani, Director & Chief Operating Officer highlighted the achievements and what needs to be done more.

Capt Mahesh Yadav, Director (Training) FOSMA a veteran in training explained the amendments in MLC.

During this pandemic, the unions and associations worked hand in hand to get seafarers vaccinated. Capt Sanjay Prashar, Managing Director, VR Maritime Services Private Limited appreciated unions and associations for carrying out vaccination drives even in remote areas. As per the data available most of the companies have done 90% of the first dose and 57% of the second dose.

Seafarers have been changed to assets to the shipping industry this change came out because of the responsible unions. India has done a considerable job over a decade, MLC came later.

“We are not living in an idle world many things were achieved by active participation of maritime administration. We do accept, there is room for improvement, but we have achieved what most of the countries could not achieve,” said Mr Abdulgani Serang, General Secretary - cum – Treasurer, NUSI.

Supporting the above statement Capt Sankalp Shukla, Managing Director, BSM, opined, “India stands as a role model today for the way we acted last year for crew change. This year we started the vaccination drive and we have done a splendid job in this. We may be lacking in few places, but what we have achieved is something we need to proud of.” Capt Shukla also brought out a fact that the HK Flag admin and unions may be holding about US$ 80 million collected from various ship owners over a period of time, towards welfare levies, and a sizeable amount may belong to Indian who had worked on board HK ships. He questioned as to whether ant claim is being laid.

Capt Venkat Iyer stated that the Maritime Administration had completely forgotten the mandate under the MS Act 1958 Sec 218 regarding the welfare measures promised in the act some 63 years ago. He also said that the administration had only ensured that the owners and RPSL are audited for compliance and the Administration which is obliged under Sec 218 has not subjected itself to any audit.

Capt Iyer further suggested that the Ministry must open the access to Port trust hospitals to the seafarers and their families 24x7 cash less basis. Capt Subash Kumar ex Pilot and Port C’man added that he had tried to help sailors through Port Trust hospitals. Where such ministry controlled hospitals are not there the seafarers must be allowed to use state run ESI hospitals and make available referral facilities free of cost. The administration must build and create dedicated hospital and medical facilities to the seafarers and their families. Retired seafarers must also be included in the system for benefits.

The Government must create facilities similar to CGHS (Central Government Employees Health Scheme) and or ECHS (Ex Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme) for total coverage of the seafarers and their families on a permanent basis. Companies must be encouraged in association with Seafarers welfare fund to obtain additional medical cover under group medical policies.

Though a lot needs to be achieved in regards to betterment of seafarers, India has again proven to be the role model for the world by helping the seafarers in need during 15 months of pandemic.

Mr Sanjay Bhavnani summed up the seminar and Capt Kamal Chadda handled the Q&A session. The webinar came to end with Capt Venkat Iyer thanking the speakers for sharing their thoughts.


(Courtesy: Marex Media)

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