Seafarers going abroad to work on ships beware! Those who have secured placement through a recruitment agent not registered with or licensed by India’s maritime regulator will not be allowed to leave the country.
The Director General of Shipping (DGS) is cracking the whip on recruitment and placement service (RPS) touts who snare desperate seafarers with impunity and leave them to fend for themselves during distress.
The maritime regulator is currently powerless to initiate action against the unregistered/unlicensed manning agents in the absence of penalty/prosecution provisions in the Merchant Shipping Act 1958.
The DGS has developed an e-migrate software for immigration of Indian seafarers after consulting the Protector of Emigrants (PoE) attached to the Ministry of External Affairs.
The e-migrate software will capture the data of seafarers engaged by local fleet owners on Indian flag ships, through recruitment agents on foreign flag and Indian flag ships, and those hired directly by global fleet owners on foreign flag ships.
The data will be filed in the e-migrate system by the manning agent or the Indian ship owner or the senior officer before the expected date of departure. The data will then be transmitted online to the Bureau of Immigration.
When a seafarer reports at the immigration check point and swipes his passport, his data is flashed on the immigration desk and he will be allowed to pass through.
“With the above system, only seafarers recruited by Indian ship owners, authorised recruitment and placement agencies and senior officers (master or chief engineer) hired directly by foreign ship owners would be allowed to pass through the immigration check points,” Subhash Barguzer, a Deputy Director General of Shipping (Crew) at the DGS, wrote in an August 11 notice.
“Seafarers recruited by unauthorised placement agencies and seafarers (other than senior officers) recruited directly by foreign shipowners shall be prevented from passing through the immigration check points,” Barguzer wrote.
Pilot from Sept 1
The e-migrate system will be run on a pilot basis for three months beginning September 1 to address any technical issues before a full-fledged roll-out.
India has some 3 lakh seafarers, and more than 5,000 cadets/students who have passed out from maritime training institutes since 2010 are waiting for employment in an industry facing strong global headwinds, according to the Shipping Ministry.
“It is a good step and an attempt to put some procedures in place,” says Abdulgani Y. Serang, general secretary of the National Union of Seafarers of India.
Many gullible seafarers go through unregistered placement agencies, paying huge sums only to be left stranded/ abandoned without any wages and such instances have become a headache for the DGS.
Serang, though, has cautioned the DGS from turning “over-zealous” lest it becomes difficult for those adhering to the rules and regulations from operating. “Those who are registered and doing business properly should not be needlessly harassed nor should it create unnecessary nuisance. It should not act as a hurdle or restrict gainful employment,” Serang said adding that there were many categories of seafarers who do not need a placement agency to work on board specialised ships because they are much in demand. They have direct contract with owners of such ships, but they also have to go through the e-migrate system now, he said.