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Tuesday, 3 May 2011

FOC ships, piracy, dear DGS, who or where is the real shipowner?

Very often, in cases involving Indian seafarers working on foreign flag ships, through RPS companies operating under DG Shipping auspices, the big question arises:- WHO is the real ship-owner? Leave alone fraud issues like fake class, absent P&I cover, lack of insurance, sub-standard rust buckets. The big question is nobody can answer - who is the real ship-owner?

The RPS company, more often than not like in the DGCA scams, are in some way or the other related or otherwise 'friendly" to people at DGS. Same old boy network, yeah, sure. Worked wonders for all of us.

But now our old boys are getting tortured, kidnapped, imprisoned and injured, maimed, even killed. Gone too far. Time to look around and put an end to this, time to fix the rot at DGS before a scam of the DGCA sort hits the ceiling, and media.

One set of simple solutions coming from a few people I spoke with, which is another thing - here in Delhi, the fear of DGS is so all-pervasive, that everybody wants to keep their identity hidden. But OK, so this is it, especially where the real owner can not be traced, and all sorts of other entities come in front:-

1) Indian flag ship wners are covered under MSA and can easily be held  traced and liable under Indian Law.
2) Issue arises in the case of foreign flag ships which are FOC and through RPS agencies where actual ownership is not known since front company is hidden in tax havens. This is absolutely illegal under Indian laws, for Indian entities to do business with entities who are hiding behind tax havens, and DGS complicity in this needs to be investigated. How is it that our own DGS extends some sort of recognition to companies which are often nothing more than suitcases and laptops hidden in secret offices in tax havens, have they not heard of people going to jail lately, for all this? Better ask around, Shri DG and NA, and soon.
3) But interim, for immediate relief, we need to demand for Indian seafarers working on foreign flag ships through RPS companies that DGS simply ceases some of these illegal practices and just complies with Indian laws to the maximum effect so that:-
a) All bank guarantees with RPS companies be increased to Rs 50 lakhs per seafarer instead of present Rs 10000.oo per seafarer. Alternately, a policy for value of Rs 50 lakhs per seafarer be made and deposited with DGS for the next of kin. This number is basis the amount of minimum insurance and under-writing for a junior Government functionary going to Afghanistan on deputation, by the way. Add to that pension and the rest of it.
b) #Where flag of vessel is same as nationality of owner of vessel, then full KYC guidelines as set down by Ministry of Finance be complied with, before permitting Indian seafarers onboard.
     #Where flag of vessel is different from nationality of owner of vessel, then full KYC guidelines as down by Ministry of Finance be complied with for both entities, before permitting Indian seafarers onboard.
c) A separate kidnap and ransom cover to be taken for each Indian seafarer to the value of USD .5 million SDRs for usage towards ransom payments.
d) A separate death and disability insurance cover to be taken for each indian seafarer to the value of full payments til the age of 65 or 10 years, whicher is longer, in case of death or disability due to piracy/kidnap.
Let us face it, DGS is not in a position to reconfirm the genuine-ness of P&I cover or documents of ships calling Indian ports, so trying to do so for ships trading exclusively abroad will be even tougher. Keep the added insurance in India, through Public Sector Insurance companies or GIC, all of us seafarers know that we are living and working in a dangerous profession with our eyes open - but please organise some protection for our families if we get kidnapped or fall afoul of pirates?

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