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Friday, 22 April 2011

Letter to the Editor at Mint on maritime piracy

Good evening,
As an ex-seafarer as well as keen observor of the whole maritime piracy scene impacting the world in general and Indians in particular, the answer to your question is simple : YES.

However, before that can be done, certain in-house correctives need to be applied.
1) Recruitment of Indian seafarers for foreign flag ships is done through RPS companies registered with the DG Shipping/Mumbai, vide rules made in 2005 which are largely defective in as much as they encourage multiple malpractices, as well as have no control on the legalities of ships on which Indians end up working. These rules, for example, do not clearly define employee or employer. Nor do they define the responsibility of the flag State of the vessel on which the Indian seafarer is going to work. The bank guarantee per seafarer for these RPS companies is - hold your breath - 10000/oo rupees per head.
Read about this here:-
If we don't fix our own rules for our own people going to work on foreign flag ships, then what is the use of shedding crocodile tears subsequently?
2) There are specifically two large banks and two large payment processing/remittance companies linked to insurance companies which are known to be involved in this business. This is an open secret in shipping circles. All of them have business interests in India. The time for playing soft is gone - these companies need to be approached and told in no uncertain terms that the sort of games they played in the rest of the world, including during the World Wars for one of them, can not be played anymore. You do not have to see Charlie Chaplin's THE GREAT DICTATOR to understand this, or work out the economics of how it is the co-linked insurance companies that are rolling in with the profits.
3) Most importantly, India's Government has to stop being apologetic about taking steps to protect its maritime trade and economy, and start hardening ships to prevent boarding as well as placing armed guards drawn from the Indian Navy and Indian Coastguard onboard Indian flag ships. Likewise, for Indians going to work on foreign flag ships under RPS of DG Shipping, it should be mandatory to have armed guards as a pre-condition for permitting Indians to work on board. As on date, the DG Shipping is still stuck with the now ancient BMP3 method, which means nothing in real terms.
Maritime piracy has to be eliminated, it is much bigger than a few seafarers being stuck off the Horn of Africa - it is the trade and economy of the country. The sooner india takes decisisve pro-active steps, the better.
regards/Veeresh Malik



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