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Friday, 26 August 2011

Ongoing discussion with INSA on the subject of Indian seafarers and more . . .

From Anil Devli/INSA:-

"A few points from INSA (Indian National Shipowners Association) to provide
Indian shipping's perspective on this issue.

The usage and utility of armed guards has been debated much as various
international fora including at the IMO who has finally come out with a position
on the use of Armed Guards, as have other international associations or agencies
such as BIMCO, ICS, and ISF. The use of armed guards on merchant vessels was
discussed at the 89th session of the IMO in May 2011 and interim guidance on the
employment of privately contracted armed security personnel on board ships
transiting the high risk piracy area was approved.

The use of such PCASP is not considered as an alternative to Best Management
Practices (BMP) and other protective measures. Placing armed guards on board as
a means to secure and protect the vessel and its crew is only an additional
measure at best, and something which all Indian ship owners would do in
discussion and in consultation with the Master of the vessel. However, much of
this is academic since we are awaiting permission from the GoI to employ such
Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP). We have been told that
such a policy should be released soon. Incidentally, it is not unknown for
tankers to have used PCASP's on board their vessels.

However, while the usage of PCASP's are an interim measure, INSA has always
advocated the use of our Naval Personnel, (trained commandos) who would be
posted on Indian flag vessels in order to secure the safety of the crew, the
cargo and the vessel. The comfort factor to the Indian seafarer of having
somebody from his own armed forces guarding him is immense but equally important
is the fact that having our own Navy guarding our ships ensures that the
national security angle within our ports and our coastal waters is also secured.
INSA hopes to see a positive comeback from the Indian government on this.

It would be erroneous to assume that some ship owning company is always at fault
whenever an Indian seafarer is in peril. As it is incorrect to suggest that ship
owners and ship managers are comfortable with seafarers on board being the
collateral damage. On the contrary, Indian flag ship owning companies have
shared a long relationship with its crew – with several of them rising from the
rank of trainee cadets over the years.

What in fact has broken this bond and increased attrition rates within the
Indian shipping industry by facilitating large migration of Indian seafarers to
foreign flag companies – is Indian government's policy of differential taxation.
The wages of an Indian seafarer on board Indian flag vessel are subject to tax
whereas those paid for doing a similar voyage on a foreign flag vessel is tax
free. By incentivizing, this policy has fueled the drain from Indian flag ships
to foreign flag vessels.

In this context too, INSA has demanded several times that the tax treatment for
Indian seafarers on Indian flag ships should be on par with that on foreign flag
but we have yet to see the government do something about this.

The casualty in all of this is the Indian seafarer and the Indian ship owner.
These two are the only entities left holding the baby. There has been little
hesitation in certain quarters to term Piracy as a "business" since every
stakeholder seems to be raking in money – from the underwriters who charge
additional premiums to the negotiators, insurers, security companies and of
course the pirates. It is the seafarer who faces personal risk and a responsible
ship owning company who has to attempt and resolve the issue at the earliest and
in the best possible manner.

While our Navy has done an excellent job in controlling piracy within the
coastal zone of India and has been extremely active in tackling pirates and
their vessels in the Indian Ocean region, we at INSA believe that it is time for
the Indian government to escalate this to the United Nations Security Council.
An international force under the aegis of the United Nations against the scourge
of Piracy is the only definitive answer.

INSA believes that the media can play an extremely important role in building
public opinion that would make action by United Nations Security Council
inevitable. However, other than a few articles on piracy, one does not see much
policy shaping or opinion creating endeavours by our media. We at INSA would be
more than happy to share information/data with the media as we appear to be in
consonance on the core issues – safety of Indian nationals, future of shipping,
trade, economy and above all national security. "


Original article as well as my response to INSA are here:-\


Dear Mr. Devli/INSA, thank you for writing in, thank you for reaching out, and thank you for the points brought up.

A full response shall be provided to you on INSA address after consulting with the editors of MONEYLIFE.

I would like to respond interim as follows;-

# On armed guards, in the specific case of the FAIRCHEM BOGEY, which as you know is an American controlled ship operating under the Marshall Islands FOC, there were armed guards on board till the 18th of August. they were then withdrawn because SALALAH anchorage was considered 'safe'.

# However, on the larger issue of armed guards onboard merchant ship, taking into account a variety of issues including lifeboat capacity, accomodation, line of command, inter-personal issues, port state issues, much still remains to be done. A strong flag state like India can, if it chooses to, bulldoze its way on this subject if it wants to.

# To blame the exit of Indian seafarers from Indian flag to foreign flag only for reasons of taxation is to miss the woods for the trees. This is another subject which can be debated at length.

# The media is not some sort of tap, to be switched on and off at will, as your last para suggests. In the first instance, INSA and its members will need to open themselves up for much more scrutiny from the media, on a variety of issues like:-

=how many INSA members are also owners/operators of foreign flag/FOC vessels.
=where is INSA on wage negotiations with Indian seafarers.
=why are Indian seafarers on Indian ships not treated as "employees" by INSA members, but instead, kept on contractual basis.
=what is INSA's position on citadels and non-armed responses onboard Indian flag ships.
=what is INSA's position on additional insurance as well as compensation for Indian seafarers on Indian ships who end up in trouble of any sort including piracy.
=what is INSA's position on the RPS Rules 2005 from DGS, which acts as a direct counter-punch to anything that INSA expects wrt employing Indian seafarers?

=Most of all, what is INSA doing to encourage media to interact with Indian seafarers on Indian ships, along the lines of what, for example, the Indian Armed Forces are doing lately?

There is a lot that INSA can and should do, instead of just picking on one aspect - taxation. Today Indian seafarers on Indian flag ships are not given shore leave in Indian ports, they are treated like rubbish by the vast variety of "authorities" who are inter-acting with ships in port, the big issue of still keeping seafarers on contractual "wages" instead of on employment is ofcourse mentioned.

Thank you for writing in. I would certainly wish to take these issues forward, but please look within - when was the last time INSA came out strongly on issues pertaining to the way shipping is being destroyed in India, especially Indian flag?

The answer, Mr. Devli, lies in the simple fact that most of the INSA members have more ships under foreign / FOC flag than under Indian. So obviously, where do the real interests lie?

Warm regards/Veeresh Malik


Some home truths about INSA (Indian National Shipowner's Association):-

# Still going out to lunch on the SS LOYALTY
# New membership very difficult almost impossible.
# No forms of other membership for national interest like inland waters, port craft, dredgers, offshore vessels, etc.
# Most members have foreign flag ships.
# Terms of employment for floating staff are sweatshop era.
# Want media support but unwilling be transparent.
# No clear position on issues like cabotage.

As stated before, INSA has a credibility issue, but refuses to accept it.


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