Ship managers struggle to carry out crew change with Indian Seafarers at foreign ports.
By now Indian seafarers must has realised that its far from over for them. As lock down 5.0 is announced international travel is still not allowed and ship managers plan to carry out crew changes using charter flight has collapsed with ministry of home affairs. The government has failed to understand their plight inspite the fact that entire crew change expenses including flight chartering, quarantine, testing etc were to borne by the ship managers and not government.
Indian seafarers are left to suffer for crew change and job loses to other nationalities seems inevitable looking at the stand taken by government. I fail to understand where are those unions (MUI, NUSI etc etc.) who were suppose to fight for seafarers.
A plan by a group of ship managers and staffing companies to carry out crew change at overseas ports involving Indian seafarers have collapsed on Saturday as a confused government denied permission to run charter flights to facilitate this task. As many as eight ship managers and crewing firms have joined hands to run the charter flight using SpiceJet from Mumbai to Doha and back, as well as from Delhi to Doha and back to, fly Indian crew looking to join ships abroad and to bring back those who had signed off after spending extended contract tenures at sea.
Philippines being the largest supplier of seafarers has Dutch airline KLM operating four flights a week between Amsterdam and Manila as of May 25 to help facilitate marine crew changes. Some Filipino seafarers have been allowed to enter Japan, according to Dario Alampay, vice-president for operations of Baliwag Navigation, which has sent two marine crews through Tokyo.
Currently, entry into Qatar is restricted for Indians but transit through Doha is permitted, opening a window of opportunity for Indian seafarers to join ships at ports in a few countries. From Doha airport, Qatar Airways run flights to 19 cities.
The Mumbai-Doha chartered flight scheduled for Sunday had planned to carry 90 Indian seafarers and another 180 crew on the return leg (Indian crew employed by Carnival Cruise Line who will come from London to Doha and from there to Mumbai on the SpiceJet flight) to allow the costs to be spread over a larger number of people and make it affordable for travelers.
The entity chartering the flight pay for the onward and return leg. If seafarers are not allowed to board the return flight from Doha, it would discourage companies from chartering flights and cause a hindrance to the process of crew change, said a seafarer.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has allowed Indian seafarers to fly out and also land in India on charter flights.The directorate general of shipping (DGS) is granting permission for charter flights but that approval is not acceptable to the Ministry of External Affairs. For outgoing seafarers, the Indian embassy in Doha has to give permission though the crew will be in transit in Doha. The embassy in Doha again has to be involved for seafarers returning to India.
The ship managers had to cancel the plan to bring back 180 crew due to lapse of time limit set by the Carnival Cruise Line, as the government delayed approval and finally denied permission. The onward flight was also scrapped.
“This is a cumbersome process and the government is confused and cannot work on timelines,” said Sanjay Prashar, managing director, V R Maritime Services, and one of the key persons who pursued the plan.The Sri Lankan government has approved crew change in Colombo and Galle with an eye on making the island nation a global hub for crew change.
“Whereas, the Indian government says you cannot sign off a foreigner, you cannot bring in an Indian seafarer, you cannot send an Indian seafarer and then you have so many procedures to follow and all the permission have to be taken by the shipping companies who never had any expertise taking permission from airlines and embassies,” Prashar said.
“The Indian government, after 65 days of lock down, cannot even make a procedure and they have failed miserably on crew change in foreign countries and bringing back stranded seafarers. They have treated seafarers as corona carriers and not as corona warriors,” Prashar, who is also a member on the National Shipping Board, said.
“We discussed this issue with five ministries, and all were nice but when it comes to giving permission, nobody gives you permission,” he said adding that the “Indian embassy is not aware who is a seafarer and what he does”.
The Mumbai-Doha-Mumbai chartered flight planned for Sunday was the first exercise for crew change overseas for Indian sailors and its success would have led to at least three more charter flights on the Delhi-Doha-Delhi sector in the first fortnight of June.
What Govt has allowed till now
MMS Maritime (India) Pvt Ltd ran a chartered flight (the lone so far) from Bangalore to Colombo on May 16 to facilitate the movement of 50 Indian seafarers to get employment opportunity in South Korea. These 50 seafarers boarded newly built ships taken over by their owners from shipyards in South Korea. My question is Who in this country is responsible for Indian seafarers and their job losses? is it DG Shiiping ! Ministry of Shipping! Unions! ALL OF YOU HAVE LET THIS COMMUNITY DOWN….PERIOD!