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India divided about its seafarers employment situation

Seafarers Relief Package

India now battles a bizarre fallout between seafarers unions and the government

A minister from India’s Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways recently claimed zero job loss at the parliament. However, a letter to another minister in the same body from the seafarer workers’ union alleged otherwise.

A note not everyone knows

Addressed specifically to Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the note pointed out as many as 21,000 Indian seafarers are facing job losses. This stemmed from Beijing’s banning vessels from berthing at China ports. Abhijeet Sangle, President of the Union asserted it was China’s tactics to barricade Indian seafarers for the benefit of its own crew. He added the note was also addressed to Amitabh Kumar, Director-General of Shipping (DG), and Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) for action. Another was also sent to Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, requesting for immediate action. Sangle told a media, “Earlier, this year, our Indian sailors faced a similar problem when China did not allow two foreign ships with Indian crew to berth at its port, resulting in our crew of over 40 left stranded off China for several weeks.”

Surprisingly, attempts to verify the allegations returned with astonishing findings. All “recipients” denied existence of such correspondence. Amitabh Kumar asserted, “We have not received any official communication from either the Chinese government or the MEA about such ban. Our data does not reflect anything related to the 21,000 seafarers’ predicament. These are personal views of some people.” A representative from MEA shared the same sentiment on having zero knowledge of such note.

Captain Sanjay Parashar from the National Shipping Board, argued China is now calling the shots. Referring to the latter, he said foreign shipping companies were told that they can lift or unload the cargo from China provided they agree to its terms; which is not to have Indian crew onboard if they want to enter the Chinese waters.

He highlighted, “There are costs involved. Either you divert your ship which means adding to your fuel costs or replace the Indian crew. Replacing a crew of five members can cost around $300,000 to $500,000.” Another representative of the India branch of a UK-based shipping company claimed China’s restrictions were imposed since March 2021.


Crewing Online News Team
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