Search This Blog

Saturday, 11 December 2010

11 dec 2010, latest on piracy in the Indian Ocean

It is now a rampage, all over the Indian Ocean, with multiple "mother ships" being used by the pirates.

A Thai crew member thrown into the sea by pirates after hijacking a cargo vessel has been rescued by an Indian warship about 350 nautical miles off Minicoy Island in the Lakshadweep Island chain.
The Thai national's vessel, Prantalay 12, was hijacked a couple of months ago and being used as a mother ship by Somali pirates to launch attacks on other merchant vessels when he was thrown over board by the sea brigands, a navy spokesperson said here today.

India's INS Krishna, which was patrolling in the area noticed Prantalay 12 and was following it when the Thai sailor was thrown out into the sea by the brigands, he said, adding the Thai man was brought to Kochi for further formalities.

"On the evening of December 4, INS Krishna rescued the Thai national while on patrol about 350 nautical miles from Minicoy Island. On sighting INS Krishna, the trawler started heading Westwards at maximum speed away from the islands. One of the Thai nationals held hostage on board was seen to be pushed into the sea," he said.

The pirates later sailed the trawler at high speeds towards the Somali coast.

Prantalay 12 is the second suspected mother vessel that was cleared from the Eastern Arabian Sea. The navy had deployed a multi-ship force in November about 300-400 nautical miles off India's west coast to clear the area of the pirates.

During the course of the security sweep in the area, the navy ship chased another merchant tanker MT Polar, being used as a mother ship by pirates, away from the region.

"Navy and Coast Guard ships and aircraft continue to patrol the areas of reported pirate attacks in an effort to ensure safety of the sea lanes of communication," the navy spokesperson said, reiterating the requirement for all merchant vessels to adopt best management practices, as prescribed by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) as vital to ensuring the safety of shipping from piracy.
However, a Bangladeshi merchant vessel was hijacked by Somali pirates about 80 nautical miles off Minicoy Island and about 320 nautical miles of Indian west coast in international waters, but within Indian Exclusive Economic Zone.

The vessel, identified as MV Jahan Moni, had raised an alarm that it was being chased by a pirate-operated skiff and sought help, but by the time the Indian Navy and Coast Guard ships that were in the vicinity could respond, the merchant vessel was hijacked, Defence Ministry sources said.

The attack on MV Jahan Moni came on Sunday and the 26-member crew were captured by the pirates, who took the vessel back to Somali coast, the sources said.

The vessel was reportedly carrying 41,000 tonnes of nickel on board and it is believed that the pirates would use both the merchandise and the crew of the cargo ship to demand a ransom, they said.
The attack took place at the 'eight-degree channel' between Minicoy Island and Maldives, which witnesses a traffic of about 40 cargo ships on an average every day.

Festivals on board ship . . .

One way of looking at it is with mixed emotions - it is a sailor's lot
to be regularly missing out on festivals while at sea, especially in
this day and age of instant communications, when you can even listen
to the festivities at home. You can choose to feel sorry for yourself,
or you can make the best of it, the choice is yours.

There is really not much to be said or written about this part of life
at sea. We all know that ships sail 24x7, and now we also know that it
is the earnest effort as well as desire of all those involved with
shipping ashore to see that if nothing else, the ships sail out of
port before the celebrations and festivals shut the port down.

All of us probably have ample number of experiences along this line -
leaving port just before the long holiday weekends or arriving just in
time after they got over. One incident I recall very clearly is being
asked to please help co-operate and sail out well in time on 31st
December - otherwise they would miss the office party!

Likewise, as a seafarer, you would have missed out on umpteen number
of occasions at home. Religious and other festivals, different types
of celebrations, Parent-Teacher Association meetings, RWA gatherings
which often turn out to be more interesting than anything else, and
similar events. All this, and more, we take in our stride.
But if you are the sort of person who sees a rainbow behind every
cloud, then festivals spent while on ships can really take on new
meanings, as well as be an important part of your larger evolution as
a human being. After all, your friends on your ship are your family,
too, and so why not make more than just the best of things?


Festivals take on a totally new meaning on ships, easy to say, but
worth repeating, especially when you are lucky enough to sail with
multi-cutural and multi-national colleagues, and subscribing to
religions from across the board. Most festivals, with some notable
exceptions, are about unbridled joy and unrestricted happiness, so it
is always great to be able to take part in them.

After all, much of international tourism is designed around going to
see and experience different kinds of cultures, and the festivals as
well as celebrations they engage in. Here we are lucky enough to have
the same, or at least mini versions, free of charge literally at our
door steps.

We just have to reach out to celebrate them. Chances are that alcohol
may not be permitted in large quantities nowadays on board your ship -
that has never been a reason to prevent celebrations, has it?

Likewise, the date and timing of the festival may clash with a high
work load period - fair enough, easy to solve, simply move it around!
There are many ways to ensure that festivals and celebrations of all
sorts can be enjoyed on board ships. You just have to be innovative
enough to seek the opportunity, and then take it forward - and then
see your reputation as a good manager of men and morale onboard take


In addition, there are some "festivals" which are unique to seafarers,
and for which the routine of celebrations was taken charge of with
great enthusiasm and gusto a few decades ago. This lot can be salvaged
and revived easily, again, keeping latest safety and other regulations
in mind.

These would include:-

# Equator Crossing Ceremonies.
# Date Line Crossing Ceremonies.
# Ships' Birthday (Launch date)
# Company specific celebrations. (Find out what they are celebrating
in the office ashore and do paralel ones onboard)
# Birthdays of children or family members onboard or even if ashore.
(Brings out the best in people, especially if the family member back
at home are celebrating)

All this, and more - in addition to the regular festivals. There has
never been a better time to celebrate on board ships than now - wages
are good, job prospects are better, companies are looking for ways to
improve HR fundamentals, the works.

It just needs that one catalyst on board to help do things - and
celebrate any and every occasion. Is that person you?

One way of trying to join cruise ships . . .

Advice given to a young man in Delhi on how to join cruise ships - comments and corrections as well as views apprecited and welcome:-

To join cruise ships now, you will need:-

1)  To do 4 x basic courses called STCW/78, these can be done at  SIMS/Bijwasan, and would take about 2 weeks, cost about 15k.

2) An InDOS number, which the institute will apply for you, costs about 800-1000/-

3) Then, with these two things in hand, you simultaneously start looking for jobs, for which you have to check out the newspapers, catering colleges, etc.etc.

4) Once you have an offer, that company will or may sponsor you for a CDC of that flag which their cruise ship flies. There are hardly any Indian pax ships, and they dont require anything like what you have in mind. So it will be Panama and similar. Take a look here:-  . . . you can do the 4 courses listed in "1" over here and hopefully pick up some grapevine on agents/jobs etc. Pleasant place, residential campus.

5) One more 3 day course called Passenger Ship Course, this is done in Cal/Madras/Mumbai. But is better done AFTER you have acquired a CDC or atleast got somewhere.

6) To acquire a CDC, a govt document, involves some run-around in Mumbai as well as the courses listed in "a". Also a job offer from some shipping line. All the foegin flag consulates are de-facto present there.

You can also do the 4 courses listed in "1" at SIMS (Sriram Institute of Marine . . .) Bijwasan,,

These are the 4 courses you will need to do, either at SIMS/Bijwasan (day course) or at TS RAHMAN (residential, nearest station by train from Delhi will be PANVEL, do not go by air or by train to Bombay central)

Personal Survival Technique

Personal Safety and Social Responsibility

Fire Prevention & Fire Fighting

Elementary First Aid


Please also apply to:-


What do you think, short and sweet?

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Lok Sabha, Parliament, and Indian Shipping . . .

Lok Sabha is where matters of great importance are discussed and often also debated. In between other episodes, of course, which many of us see on television and most of us otherwise have no information about.

Now and then some questions and answers are also handled, to do with shipping.

Here is a sample from the recent past:-

The Government has been taking various steps from time to time for the growth of Indian tonnage. These include:-

(i) In order to create level playing field for the Indian Shipping Companies with their global counter parts, the Government has introduced Tonnage Tax regime in India since the year 2004. Further, the liberalized policy on ship acquisition has been introduced and acquisition of all types of ships has been brought under Open General License (OGL). Besides, 100% FDI has been permitted in ship acquisition and registration formalities of newly acquired ships have been simplified.

(ii) The Government of India has formulated the National Maritime Development Programme (NMDP). It is a comprehensive programme aimed at various issues that need to be addressed to bring holistic growth in the Indian Shipping Industry. Under the NMDP, Shipping Corporation of India, the only Public Sector Shipping Company is in the process of acquiring a total of 76 new vessels with a total outlay of approximately Rs.15,000 crores, to be completed in phases till 2015. Of these, 22 ships have already been delivered and orders have been placed for construction of another 30 vessels.
The above information was given by the Minister of Shipping, Shri G.K. Vasan in Lok Sabha

So, now you know why Indian Shipping is still where it is.

Mahindra Reva - a car for shippies?

For anybody who has been on the motoring beat in India for the past
decade and more, a launch function for the regularly reborn Electric
Vehicle "Reva" is like the repeat last button for a favourite song -
you can never get tired of it, sometimes there are a few bits and
pieces added on or removed, and everytime you hear it, you discover
something new that you like even more. This time around, it was the
power back into the batteries from the new improved regenerative
braking systems, that would feed power back not only while braking,
but also decelerating.

But that's not all. Now christened the "Reva-i", it also has another
major "new" feature - the prefix "Mahindra". This brings in a complete
network of dealers all over the country, starting with the urban
centres, even though most of the sales are still in and around
Bengaluru. What this wonderful little runabout lacked was presence and
visibility in other cities - Mahindra hope to fix that by offering the
Reva-i on the same dealer floor next to their full range of products -
Logan, Bolero, Xylo, Scorpio et al.

Current controvery, environmentally driven, about large diesel
vehicles is also relevant. Mahindra has taken it on themselves to
pro-actively offer new technology vehicles - the little known Scorpio
Hybrid is one such example. The Reva-i fills a slot in the Mahindra
bouquet - those who buy a 4WD SUV can also pick up a Reva-i from the
same showroom. That is more than anything the whole clutch of
"foreign" manufacturers have done in India.

Essentially a two-seater two-door four-wheeler, the Reva-i comes with
lead-acid batteries in India, largely for reasons of cost. Ask them
about new battery technology, which they have, and you get shy grins.
The left seat is designed to fold, and using the rear hatch, a
full-size golf set fits in with a few centimetres to spare. With a
body made of ABS panels, repairs are as simple as mixing a pre-packed
solution, adding colour pigments, and patching things back on. Full
automatic (there is a forward, neutral and reverse "button" on the
dashboard), with a stated top speed of 80 kmph, you get three trim
levels - including one with air-conditioning.

Charging is by ordinary 220v 15 amps plug and socket arrangements -
assumption is that you have the facility for secure overnight parking
and charging. Like all batteries, it charges from almost emoty to 80%
in a short while, around 2-3 hours, but for the last 20%, will take
another 5 hours more.

This correspondent has driven the Reva extensively, and has seen it
evolve over the last decade into a very reliable local car, unlike the
earlier editions. (Some people may remember a Miss World contest in
Bengaluru, and the adverse publicity achieved then.) Likewise,
Mahindrahad also launched an electric 3-wheeler, named "Bijlee", way
back in 2002 - which wqs soon put aside.

The new Reva-i, however, has proven itself in developed countries. And
now, as the song goes, its time for India. Waka waka, reva-i.
What we would like to see in the newer Revas:- LED lamps, new
generation batteries, proper two-door two-seater configuration instead
of pretending and trying to be a 4-seater, certainly more subsidies
and exemptions, and as our model portrays - more head room.
(Reva also has a technology tie-up with General Motors, primarily
announced for an electric version of the Chevrolet Spark, on which we
look forward to hearing some more soon.)
Please see the photos at

Post Piracy care of Seafarers

The Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) has published Preliminary Guidelines: Post-Piracy Care for Seafarers, outlining preliminary strategies on caring for seafarers (merchant mariners) affected by piracy. The document, based on cutting-edge mental health research and ongoing discussions with shipowners, crewing agencies, representatives of governments, and other stakeholders in the industry, provides practical guidelines for the maritime industry.

SCI presented the Preliminary Guidelines to Working Group 3 of the United Nations Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia on January 27, prior to the Plenary Meeting of the Contact Group the following day. SCI also plans to submit the document to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) at the meeting of the Maritime Security Committee in May.

Based on experience gained through the clinical study and stakeholder responses, SCI will update Preliminary Guidelines, available online at:

SCI desires to speak with seafarers who have experienced piracy, including attacks, hostage-taking, or simply sailing through high risk piracy areas. Contact Clinical Researcher Michael Garfinkle, PhD at +1 212 349 9090 ext. 240 or by email at

SCI researchers strictly protect privacy.

SAILOR TODAY Awards 2011 . . .

Hello Friends!!!
In Association with: Videotel London,
Supported by :BIMS, Thailand
Endorsed by: INSA, MASSA, FOSMA
Will be held on 12th of March 2011!!!
If you think, you or a friend of yours deserves to win this prestigious awards, click on the link below, & fill up the nomination form right away!Join us to make sure only the deserving walk home with the trophy!!!
The entries will be evaluated by a panel of judges and the recipients announced prior to the function. Since the awards are non-competitive in nature, there can be more than one recipient in a category. The recipients will only be selected from within the entries received, and the decision of the panel of judges will be final and binding on all nominees.
Other Upcoming Events:
Sailor Today Cricket Cup 2011- Mumbai
Thank You!!!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

General Average, Piracy, Somalia and a court ruling

So what happens when ranson payments are demanded out of general average, and shippier/consignee take a stand against this?

Here's what a Kenyan importer did, when asked to pay up,or else - and then subsequently, the money was sought to be forcibly withdrawn from his bank account.

Briefly, Absons of Mombasa were going to see substantial funds transferred from the their banks to  the Singapore owners as well as their ransom negotiators till the authorities put a halt to it.

Read more about it here:-

These are some interesting parts:-

"The importer, through the firm of Kinyua Muyaa, is now under duress to agree to have the funds referred to as ‘general average’ released to Habib Bank in Singapore, after which they will be remitted to Marine Claims office of Asia, which negotiated with the pirates."

The ship was the PIL container vessel KOTA FAJAR, and the ransom was around 3.3 million USD plus lawyers and megotiators fees.

Indian coastal shipping may permit foreign flag ships . . .

DG Shipping has issued a note, seeking stakeholders and others to comment on a proposal to open up certain segments of coastal shipping in India to foreign flag merchant navy ships, initially only for loaded containers to be trans-shipped to and from Indian ports. The note can be viewed on DG Shipping's website, and seeks responses by 34th of November 2010.

In brief:-

# Loaded containers only to be moved between Indian ports on foreign flag vessels.
# These foreign flag container ships may be permitted relaxation in manning norms, usually not available to Indian flag ships.
# Cabotage protection will continue for other types of ships on the Indian coast.
# Preferential freight will still continue for Indian flag ships, up from 10% to 25%.
# A separate note has been issued for coastal river-sea vessels under the Indian flag too.

All in all, exciting days ahead for coastal shipping, and who knows - we may yet have a vibrant coastal shipping industry?

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Hijacked ship with captured crew attacks Spanish naval warship . . .

Good heavens! So now, first you get pirated or hijacked, then you get forced to use your ship to try and ram into a naval ship, which then fires back at you.

The Izumi, a Japanese cargo ship captured in October 2010, was used to try and ram into the Spanish warship Infanta Cristina, which was escorting a merchant ship in the area, off the East Coast of Somalia on the 14/15 of November 2010.

Read the full report . . . amazing.

Really, is your Merchant Ship insured against piracy? How do you know?

So, dear Seafarer. Shipowner, Shipmanager, regulatory Authority, Fleet Personnel Manager, Union Leader, family members and everybody else interested in this subject of seafarers going off to dangerous waters . . .  would you please like to come out with cogent statements involving not just pleasantly couched words, but hard facts and numbers,  what really the insurance protection for the man on the ship is in case of piracy or hijack? Modern day piracy, of which just about 40% takes place in the Arabian Sea waters, is now a global phenomenon. Somalia gets a lot more attention because it appears to have become a hub lately, and is closer to India, but the rest of the world is not far behind, and the "business" of hijacking ships seems to be growing. Just like other streams of crime, for example prostitution, narcotics, arms trade - this too now seems to be settling into a pattern and a system.
That's as far as the relevance to the fact that this is now another business, and all business is about numbers, so what are the numbers, and where do the numbers go? What does it mean when somebody tells somebody else that "insurance for piracy" exists on such-and-such ship?
To start with, the piracy numbers include:-
# Investment versus returns, and a whole flotilla of numbers and words persons, and also some mercenaries, to keep the whole business well-greased. Imagine, can a transaction of almost 10 million dollars (9.8 million was the reported figure) plus costs involved in enabling this payment for releasing the supertanker SAMHO DREAM (say, another 5 million dollars) have been able to move across the globe without the direct participation of a whole lot of number crunchers  and shysters all over the world, especially in the "developed' world? So, modern-day piracy is not about to simply go away, for any reason.(Source - bankers unwilling to be identified in Europe and UAE.)
#The definitions of piracy and hijacking also appear to vary worldwide, and this in turn impacts the question of whether a vessel is a total loss or not, after the incident, whether hijack or piracy. Either way, in some countries, the insured shipowner/operator has not been "ir-retrievably deprived" of the vessel, so insurance claims for piracy or hijack, even interim, can not be paid out. Never mind what happens on the ship. In addition, it is the duty of the shipowner and his Master/crew to prove that they made all attempts to mitigate losses, and whether this includes the ransom payment or not is an open issue. So, a Master and his crew, who have not been paid, not received decent food, have been under capture, whose families may be starving - they still have to prove that all attempts were made to "mitigate" losses.
# In the UAE, it is even more complex, since they demand a "special provision" for piracy. The difference between "war risk" and "piracy" is there, not sublime, but complicated. However, one can not substitute the other, so a special cover in advance will be needed. At what point does piracy become an "act of war", given the current pronouncements of the attackers, claiming that they are working for their countries? No clear answers here, either - and carrying armed guards on board through somebody else's territorial waters, does that impact right of innocent passage? What does the Master of a ship have to say, if armed guards are on his ship, and the ship is then considered "hostile" - where do the crew stand as far as insurance goes, then?
# So while "piracy insurance" may have been taken by a shipowner/operator, please remember that "even though piracy is an insured peril, the onus to prove the act of piracy for successful recovery remains with the assured, in particular to establish that the act occurred was piracy and not terrorism, i.e. that the persons committing the act did so exclusively for their own material benefit, rather than pursuing a political, ideological or religious scope."
Many of the latest episodes of piracy are defining their activities stikingly close to this.
# There is an estimate, provided by the Professional  General Insurance Research Organisation (GIRO) that each piracy attack on a merchant ship costs around 9 million dollars, and from another un-named source, that it is eventually between 10 and 15 million dollars, ransom and all costs. This is just a ballpark estimate, and rising lately. Working backwards from here, the average cost per merchant ship transiting the Suez Canal and going through the Gulf of Aden works out to between 70 and 110 thousand dollars, another rough estimate, and rising. Higher on ships carrying higher value cargoes, ofcourse, so assume a 10000 teu ship is paying about 300,000 dollars per trip each way - that's 30 dollars per teu extra costs. But what are the owners, cargo interests and seafarers getting out of this, incase of attack? That's not very clear.
# The number of seafarers kidnapped in piracy/hijack incidents as per the London-based International Chamber of Commerce’s Commercial Crimes Services was 867 in 2009, and 790 so far this year. There are some 'carry-forwards' who have been kidnapped in the previous year/years, and some simply 'missing'. However, this does not in any way provide any information on the disruption to seafarers even way outside in the Arabian Sea, in terms of mental tension and actual attacks.
# Allianz Global Corporate & Strategy, a leading insurer of ships and cargo, says that in most cases, piracy is covered under "normal" hull and insurance cover, even for ships not trading in piracy prone areas. The efficacy of this "normal" cover when a piracy or hijack takes place is very much under debate and till then, may well be slightly ineffective at best. So the solution would be to take additional cover. However, truth is that many owners or operators or charterers simply do not take additional cover when going through these areas - because special piracy covers are not easily available that offer special, flexible and tailor made cover for such ships.
# Here is a map of the piracy prone areas worldwide:-
It is clear that marine insurance is the oldest form of insurance worldwide. War risk and piracy insurance have been linked for a long time. However, war risk insurance, and also piracy, can be unilaterally cancelled by the insurer at 48 hours notice. What does the seafarer onboard know about this, is the regulator able to provide any form of guarantees here?
It is in your interest as a seafarer to actively seek out the full details of the insurance cover taken for piracy, and to see that it is kept valid throughout your tenure - which obviously you can not do. But certainly the regulators, DG Shipping, can frame some rules urgently in this context?
Or, as is often the case, keep sailing "Ram Bharose".

Regine Brett - at 90

Lady called Regina Brett wrote this when she turned 90 - and I read it years ago, came back to me when I was looking for something else. Sounds good, so here's this for all the young and younger seafarers . . .

Written By Regina Brett, 90 years old, of "The Plain Dealer", Cleveland , Ohio . . . "to celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I've ever written."

My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.
16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: 'In five years, will this matter?'
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42. The best is yet to come...
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
44. Yield.
45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

So, you get it?

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

HE-Alert - the magazine for safety on ships

Now also available online at:-

Here's my short response to an article on a subject dear to me . . . read on:-

Richard Sadler's column (Alert/issue No. 23/May 2010) makes some very valid points on the relationship between finance/financiers and shipping/seafarers.

Here's my point of view, and please don't put it aside as "3rd World" because of my physical/geographical location on date - as an ex-seafarer who has been a shipbroker, into politics, as a freight forwarder, been part of bringing unitised cargo inland into India, on television as an anchor, within all forms of media and headed the Asia operations of a Silicon Valley tech company in the business of transaction management for 3 industries - financial, gaming and preventive defence - as well as fathered two investment bankers - and so I do think a bit of world view comes from New Delhi, too. Please also excuse the syntax and grammar - for the last one year I have been at it trying to also revive my CoC issued 1980 and that has been an experience, too.

1) The biggest flaw is that the seafarer is seen by everybody ashore as an over-worked donkey - which she or he is. The rest of the world has moved on, not just in reduced working hours, but the seafarer is still flogged on 4-on/8-off, or worse. Between IMO, ILO, STCW, ILO 147, ILO 163, ILO 180 and now ILO Super - everybody knows that the seafarer they visit on the ship is still subjected to something called "not undermining the authority of the Master" - in this day and age. The first thing that needs to be done, therefore, is to bring down working hours onboard, especially for deck watchkeepers, by the simple method of adopting a Master + non-watchkeeping First Mate, and 3 independent watch-keepers. At the very least.

2) The training for seafarers is still stuck in arcane subjects like magnetic poles, theory of gyro and other ancient art forms - when what is needed for interaction with shore staff is more a PR cum legal person. An average seafarer by the time he is 30 or so has spent more than 4 years learning about stuff that is going to be of no use to him, while the same time could be spent better in understanding the simpler art of collision avoidance, pollution prevention and acquiring basic economic skillsets. That's the next thing that needs to change. You want respect from your banker - you have to understand what he is saying.

3) Industry meaning shipowner - and I have spent some quality time lately with shipowners as well as taken part in piracy/hijack release discussions - considers the seafarer on board as a standing expense - whether alive or dead. As long as the CoC and other certification is in order keeping the ship seaworthy, it does not matter - the seafarer is a commodity to the shipowner. Barring passenger and cruise ships, it is better to treat the seafarer as somebody who eats too much food, and then cribs about everything.

4) Industry meaning cargo interests, port state staff, insurance the rest of them - in my part of the world, treats the seafarer as somebody from the bottom rung, like the hapless truckdriver. Somebody to hold as hostage for a period of time at no cost to anybody other than the shipowner, so why feed the seafarer in the period ad interim. For "food" read salaries, and other expenses. I have heard shipowners crib about paying salaries to seafarers who have spent months onboard ships arrested, hijacked or similar - or been jailed for alleged crimes committed while on duty.

5) On crew shore leaves, and the comparison to airline crew, very valid points. Where do we start - should seafarers demand shore leave as a right? Good heavens, even earned leave is deemed to be a "privilege" extended at the mercy of the owner, so what cost shore leave? So
would owners now start insisting that charter parties include clauses on shore leave for seafarers, or ensure additional "bonuses" in lieu, is that a thought the time for which is very overdue?
What I can not agree with, Sir, is the approach that we leave it to the bankers to administer these changes. Having been a vendor to the banking industry for the last decade, I would suggest that change in inertia level is one thing they hate. What we have to do is look within. Take, for example, the whole wonderful concept of GMDSS. Great. But how on earth did it evolve into something which did away with a Radio officer onboard, when in actual fact we need a Super Elecronics and Communication person on every Merchant Navy ship?

The cure, Sir, is from within. It is the seafarer who needs to say, OK, I am a Master, and I consider this ship unseaworthy if it does not have at least 1 more watch-keeping officer - and he then needs to work with the Port State, since the Flag State and its bankers sure will not assist.

Veeresh Malik
New Delhi

(Courtesy of Alert! - The International Maritime Human Element Bulletin)

You, and technology onboard - whither goest thou?

How about this - if you have a gmail account, you will now be able to make free phone calls from your mobile phone number to any mobile phone number, anywhere in the world, for free if local and not more than 2 cents a minute for international. This may soon be available on any ship which has internet connectivity.
Will this increase or decrease your workload on the ship?
Or this - sitting on your computer, from anywhere, you can make a vast variety of Indian Government related payments - taxes, train tickets, car insurance, highway toll recharge, postal work, provident fund management, pension updates, the works. (Actually, correct that, anything but any payments related to our very own Directorate General of Sleeping, sorry, Shipping, and its Moribund, sorry, Mercantile Marine Department, where we still have to stand in lines at selected fixed times in dingy rooms with small windows to pray to the mini-gods behind the counters to be allowed the privilege of paying by demand draft or treasury challans in quadruplicate and talking to them.) So now also look forward to a time where instead of payments being made on behalf of the owners by agents, the ship can release funds directly to the authorities, and save on costs.
Will this increase or decrease your workload on the ship?
The more things change, the more there is a chance that some of us who feel that the door was shut after we got on, will try to freeze at some point in time or space. Our time was the best time. Any change or difference, even improvement, is viewed as an increase in workload.
But meanwhile, on a ship not too far away from you and me, things are evolving and changing even more rapidly. As an example:-
On the bridge you now have electronic ECDIS charts that are capable of being updated courtesy the internet and communications equipment that can handle most things automatically. Down below, in the engine control room, a variety of redundancies has taken care of much maintenance and possible equipment failures. As far as new-age technologies go, the shipping industry has been right there, ahead of the rest of the world, for centuries now - and that's a simple fact. Not the latest is the use of neural netoworking technology to help predict problems. Wait a bit more, and they will soon second guess your inner most thoughts, too. The technology already exists, it is just the cost and the resistance to change, both of which will be overcome ashore in due course.
What takes longer to change is the attitude of the man on board, and worse, the attitude of his ex-seafaring contemporaries ashore. One has encountered people in offices ashore who will not walk to a filing cabinet in the next room or open the data on their own computers, choosing instead to fire off one more email to the seafarer on board, content in his knowledge that mail from office is still treated with respect - and fear - on ships.
Which is also the biggest complaint onbboard ships against new technology. The loudest wail one hears is that all this technology causes more workload. This is like blaming the booze inside a bottle - instead of blaming the person who bought and drank it. The technology is waiting to be used, but many of us onboard will not do so or take the effort to master it  - and here's an example from the '70s when I was a cadet.
The company wanted copies of the log books for some voyages gone past, and we had a brand new photo-copying machine onboard, which in my unasked for opinion as a cadet was more than enough. However, the Master was of the opinion that since they had copied logbooks into logbooks in his days, the same needed to be done, and so it was done. Sitting in the same ship's office with a brand new photocopying machine, yours truly spent all his spare time copying the log book by hand. For weeks.
Went to the office a few months later, as it so happened I carried the old log books with me, and was asked why did I do it, why did I copy everything down by hand, they needed photo-copies.
Today all one hears is complaints about how people ashore, be they port, state, flag or company, keep demanding all sorts of information. There are those Masters and Chief Engineers who will make heavy weather of each request for information. And then there was this email from a batchmate, one of the better Masters at sea, if I may say so, with varied experience ashore, who said this:-
There is tsunami of paperwork and we have to accept - NO work is done without doing the paperwork, even when you visit the toilet. The problem regarding paperwork is because we compare them with our early days of command and due to total dependency of shore staff to feed them with all information. Infact I have now developed a checklist and reporting system, which if sent to me by masters from ship then I or even my wife can monitor ship's performance from my bedroom. So much spoon-feeding and uncalled for reporting which the inexperienced office staff wants is tremendous and most of incoming messages request for response ASAP, including yours, maybe. So, now a master is a glorified Head Clerk / PRO, who is expected to be sitting infront of the computer all the time during the Head Office working hours, otherwise there you get a phone call! Life is different onboard after ISM, after the "overriding authority" said to be given to master by companies and after company various departments depend on various reportings - daily/weekly/fortnightly/monthly/quarterly/Pre-Arrival Port/ In-Port Report/Departure Report/ etc and etc..... I can go on and on. I have the basic computer skills if not more, but can't tide over the paperwork tsunami very easily. But systems can be made and placed in position, if you learn to carry the shore staff with you.
That's the key phrase - at sea with all this technology at your disposal you are now no longer a ship far away - you are an extension of the commercial part of things. Which is the real truth - the ship is out there to make a profit for the stakeholders, and all the technology provided is supposed to assist you. Get used to it.
So either you learn to master it, or you move on, and make way for a generation of younger people who will do so. Luckily, there is a shortage, otherise can you imagine what would be the fate of Masters and Chief Engineers who have not bothered to upgrade their computer and technology as well as information gathering, dissemination and public relations/protocol skillsets?
It is high time that an infotech usage course, maybe a module teaching seafarers more than the usage of things like word and excel, was made part of the whole certification process.

So, are you an NRI, or what?

Here's a quick article I did for Sailor Today on tax-free status . . . and even more relevant now than ever before. Please do visit and ask your tax consultant for more . . .


The issue of a review in NRI status from, broadly, not more than 6 months a year to 2 months a year, has caused great debate and worry with seafarers - both present, prospective and past. And rightly so. This is one of the most widely misunderstood and misinterpreted aspects of Income Tax in India, which is one reason why the new Direct Tax Code (DTC) is trying to address that too. Many will now have to rework startegies.
Interim, here are a few basic observation, issued in best interest but without guarantee. Please do consult your own taxation entities for any decision you wish to take pertaining to fiduciary issues.
1) The new DTC will come into effect from the 1st of April 2012. Likely. Maybe, but at the same time, maybe earlier, maybe later. This remains to be seen.
2) The present dispensation of not more than 6 months in a year is water-tight. Not really, it comes with a few ryders and conditions, some extremely complex.
3) To be on the safe side, stay out of the country on a foreign flag ship for atleast 190 days. Apparently, that's not enough, and here are some queries being raised:-
# Did the ship in question visit India or enter territorial waters/Economic Zone at any time. That's 200 miles.
# Did the NRI sign an agreement with any entity/company/agent in India. If he did, how was he an "NRI"?
# Did the seafarer get "control" of the money in India? (Means - where was the bank account)
# Did the seafarer NRI exceed 365 days in India in total in the last 3-4 financial years.
# Where was his place of residence while an NRI. Ship was place of work. Explain the issue.
This is not something that SAILOR TODAY concurs with, or supports - but we would not be doing our job if we did not bring this to your notice. As for the Income Tax Authorities, their focus is clear - incremental taxation from any source is their aim.
Complicated days ahead for NRI seafarers unless something is done, and soon. Otherwise, the best advice we can give you is - proceed with caution.
Here's an article published by me at MONEYLIFE, referring to the commercial aspects of claims and counter-claims when cargo ships meet accidents.

This one was with reference to the MSC CHITRA / KHALIJA III collision off Mumbai Harbour.

It is always sad to see ships collide, break their backs, capsize, and sink, especially if they are so close to port. Here major media make a circus out of what is actually one of the saddest spectacles.

The MSC Chitra / Khalija III collision outside Mumbai Harbour once again brings into focus the sheer neglect of maritime matters on the Indian coast by the various organisations responsible.

(read on)



Manu's scripts: Calculated mistake.

Manu's scripts: Calculated mistake.

"For most of my working life I have been told, by the cabal sitting ashore, that crew costs are rising unsustainably and that we Indian sailors are- to use a favourite banality- ‘pricing ourselves out of the market’. So you can imagine my surprise when I read of a Lloyd’s List article that said that, since 2003, when the the International Bargaining Forum began, ”the costs of the 23-man model ship used as the basis for negotiations have increased from USD 42,794 a month to USD 54,850, a rise of 28%”. Coincidentally, another report I ran into, this time by Moore Stephens, says that total ship operating costs fell between 2% and 8% in 2009 after 7 years of rise, although they are expected to be marginally higher this year. The nine year average rise is between 6 and 7 percent.""

Read on, click the link . . .

MLC 2010 and the seafarer onboard a ship - some new bits . . .

Many shipowners and seafarers do not realise it as yet, but the Maritime Labour Convention 2010 (MLC 2010) which is going to come into force next year (2011), will be implemented by Port State Control. So it does not matter if your Flag State has ratified or signed on to the convention or not - if the Port State has signed on, then compliance by owners, operators, Master and seafarers will be essential.

States that have already ratified the MLC 2010 include Panama, Canada, Bahams, Norway, Liberia, Marshall Island, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Spain. Countries that are expected to ratify before the end of 2010 are the European Union countries and the Pacific Rim countries.

So what are the significant changes for seafarers?

One aspect would be the contract between seafarer and owner. Some significant new points would include:-

# The seafarer has been given enough time to read and review and also take advice on the contract or agreement before signing. What is "enough time"? That is left to the seafarer. If he feels he has not been given enough time, then he asks for more.

# The full name and address of the shipowner will have to be entered into the contract or agreement. In case the ownership is multiple layered, then all the names and addresses will be required to be entered.

# Full details of the health and social security benefits provided to the seafarer shall have to be entered. In this context, the new rules pertaining to NRIs and "foreign workers/Indians working abroad" under the EPFO may also be seen.

# Where the seafarer is liable for any reason to pay for his repatriation and other expenses, then a maximum amount needs to be set out in the contract/agreement itself. This can not be open ended as it is now.

# A :Shipowner's Complaint Procedure" will have to be defined and made available to the seafarer. The exact mechanics of this are yet unknown, but it is expected that this will have provision for referral back to flag and port state.

# Disciplinary rules and procedures will have to be set down, in detail, in keeping with flag and port state requirements. This appears to be a tough one. Each Port State will have different rules for such actions.

# On rest periods, much was expected, but little has changed. Maximum interval between 2 rest periods will be 14 hours. Extra work impacting rest hours for any reason - emergency, drills, musters, safety, peril - must be compensated.

# Paid leave entitlement is now a minimum of 40 days in each year of employment. This means 325 days work, 40 days leave, which works backwards to about 3.75 days per month. Pro-rata if employed for less than a year. In other words, for a 3-month contract, onboard for 2 months and 20 days entitles you to 10 days leave. Encashment of leave permitted.

# Termination of contract by seafarer for urgent or compassionate reasons shall be without cost to the seafarer. Notice period for termination of contract shall be not less than 7 days on both sides, and both seafarer as well as shipowner shall have equal number of days for this.

# Dental treatment will now be included in medical care, when visiting doctors ashore.


Ofcourse, the above is still evolving, and there may be variations as and when the MLC 2010 comes into force in your Flag State. But expect the Port State Control to implement their version of MLC 2010 with vigour, and  soon.

Good luck. One more inspector . . .

How to join a cruise ship? ver 1.0

Basic advice to a young man who wants to join the cruise industry. Age 27, done this and that in the travel industry ashore, now looking at the romance of being on a ship.

Please do read, update, correct, suggest improvements?


a) To join cruiuse ships now, you will need:-

1)  To do 4 x basic courses also called STCW/78, these can be done at a variety of institutes and colleges in India. Cost about 12k.

2) An InDOS number, which the institute will apply for you, costs about 800-1000/-

3) Then, with these two things in hand, you simultaneously start looking for jobs, for which you have to check out the newspapers, catering colleges, byelanes of port cities, internet.

4) Once you have an offer, that company may sponsor you for a CDC of that flag which their cruise ship flies. There are hardly any Indian pax ships, and their rules are, different. So it will be open register and similar.

5) Also take a look here:-  . . . you can do the 4 courses listed in "1" over here and hopefully pick up some grapevine on agents/jobs etc. Pleasant place, residential campus.

5) One more 3 day course called Passenger Ship Course, this is done in Cal/Madras/Mumbai. But is better done AFTER you have acquired a CDC or atleast got somewhere.

These are the 4 courses you will need to do, at DGS approved colleges, for STCW purposes:-

Personal Survival Technique
Personal Safety and Social Responsibility
Fire Prevention & Fire Fighting
Elementary First Aid


And then, good luck.


Monday, 15 November 2010

Alcohol at sea, drinking on board, and booze tales

One of the more interesting aspects of going job hunting for a berth as 2/o or C/o has to do with the way fleet personnel try to wiggle the truth on alcohol out of you. Mind you, most of them look like they can't last till noon without a few themselves, but then, they're not on the chart table or in the engine room anymore.

Here's a very interesting and realistic article, story, report on the realities of alcohol at sea.

I particularly like the part where the writer brings out a truth - more people at sea drink alone in their cabins now, instead of socially.

As for me, I did all I had to do as far as booze and nashaa were concerned when I was young. Now it is a glass of wine every week or so, or none at all.

But they still peer at me and drop leading questions!!

shippies, Diwali, festivals - and more.

Diwali is increasingly a festival for all Indians, across social, religious and other barriers, more as a sort of get home and be with the family than anything else. That the markets of the shopping sorts are almost abandoned, traffic on roads is down to very low, and most commercial establishments that would otherwise be open, are shut, is typical. Keep aside the essential services as well as those that need 24x7 attendance, and you have the picture - here, also, people do manage to celebrate either a wee bit early or maybe later on. And then, ofcourse, people can always speak with each other on phone, even if they are not really there.

There are, ofcourse, some categories of people who simply can not be anywhere near their families on Diwali - and don't have the option of simply calling up easily either. Prisoners in jails, for example. Or seafarers on ships at sea, as another example. A satellite call to or from a ship still costs a minor fortune, though some ships now have V-SAT and other internet options available, which are sometimes shared with seafarers for their personal use. All routed through the office, of course, and with hardly any privacy though. But these are more the exception, than the rule, and even that - if people working on ships have the time from their typical 90+ hour working week.

Easy to say this:- seafarers are the invisible wire and glue that keep the world of commerce actually ticking over. Unfortunately, the only time seafarers make the public's mind through the news is when disasters, especially of the environmentally polluting sort, take place. Over a few hundred ships sink every year with a few thousand losing their lives, over 500 seafarers are currently held hostage by pirates off Somalia while family members back home get calls to pay off mini-ransoms, but the "shippie" works on, invisible to all but friends and family, keeping the wheels of commerce - and banking - turning.

Never mind what anybody has to say about the "new economy", and all the rest of it, including profits made for services as well as industries which do not involve the physical movement of goods or people - if there were no seafarers, then almost all of the world's trade would simply come to a grinding halt. That they do this job unseen and unheard, for centuries now, is part of the larger picture. One reason for this silence is  the nature of the whole ship-owning and operating business. The other reason is that most seafarers themselves are, by definition, majorly disconnected from the rest of the world - by the nature of their job - and take a lot in their stride.

It is, no doubt, a tough life. And that is why, currently, it is reported that there is a major shortage of trained seafarers worldwide, especially in the deck and engineer officer categories. The traditional supply from European countries has almost totally died down. Other countries are still about a generation behind in setting up training as well as certification pipelines - though China, despite the disadvantage of being behind in English skillsets,  is catching up rapidly, also because of a rapid expansion in their coastal shipping, fishing as well as shipbuilding industries. Likewise the ex-Soviet East European countries, they too have rich seafaring traditions, and are rapidly catching up.

One would have thought, therefore, that this provided another opportunity for India and Indians to fill in the breach worldwide. Yes, certainly, there already are a lot of Indians in the seafaring industry, both at sea as well as ashore. Many, most of them, do very well indeed lately - with high tax-free salaries and fairly short contracts/tenures at sea. But in the midst of all this, many of tomorow's generation of seafarers seem to have hit on a wall, and for them, Diwali has been anything but happy. Stuck with heavy loans taken in the name of "Government authorised training", and then unable to get the correct documentation enabling them to work on ships, there is a whole generation of trained cadets and crew who are currently stuck ashore. Worse, after their pre-sea training, some who manage to go to other countries to look for jobs, find themselves at great risk working on sub-standard ships and other vessels.

(Case in point: Cadets were recruited from India at great cost, 6-8 lakh per annum plus recruitment and other fees, and sent onboard a "training ship" known as the RAK SINDBAD in Ras Al Khaimah, run by Indians. The website shows as faculty a Capt. Suptd., an Indian mariner, who unfortunately passed away a few months ago. A sister ship, RAK AFRIKANA, with over a dozen Indians onboard including 11 cadets placed without much by way of official authorisation from the Indian authorities, was captured by pirates in March 2010, and there is no further news on their status. But they, like other training institutions, merrily kep advertising and looking for more youngsters to "train".)

But the bigger issue is to do with an organisation in India known as the "Indian Maritime University" (IMU). Formed with the charter to provide higher education to seafarers, it has conveniently moved into the more lucrative business of providing "affiliation" to a large number of pre-sea training institutes all over the country to churn out vast numbers of deck cadets and ratings for crew, many of whom have now started clogging the back-streets and bye-lanes of port cities all over India, unable to find jobs simply because their training is often sub-standard and their certificates are not worth the paper they have been printed on. It is these youngsters, the number now running into thousands and growing every year by leaps and bounds, who are certainly not celebrating Diwali, as they groan under the burden of heavy loans or move out to work on the sub-standard fleets of the world without any sort of protection.

Training for seafarers in India is something which was under the purview of the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) for decades. The DGS, incidentally, also provides approvals for a separate cadre of pre-sea training institutes, but has a far more rigrous regime, something that has over the decades ensured that certification for seafarers from DGS in India is on top of the rest of the world in terms of judging and declaring competence for all levels - which is a simple fact. DGS also has a system which links training to placement, as well as documentation to ensure compliance by ships and companies that employ Indians to the standards set by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Not perfect, certainly, but it works. And it ensures that Indian seafarers are able to celebrate Diwali, whether onboard or ashore.

The paralel IMU system, however, is at best in a shambles, and at worse close to creating a major disaster for young Indians looking to taking up seafaring as a profession. Which is a shame, because in the existing shortage, which looks like becoming worse, an opportunity for large numbers of properly trained and certified Indian seafarers is likely to pass us by, providing a window of opportunity to other nationalities.

Which is not good Diwali for Indian seafarers, larger picture, as we seem ready to lose out on another opportunity to dominate what is, in essence, the root of all world trade - shipping.


Sunday, 14 November 2010

The case of the disturbing personal eMail - NORFOLK EXPRESS grounding

The Chief Officer of the NORFOLK EXPRESS received a personal eMail while on watch which troubled him so much that he lost all semblance of attentiveness, resulting in the ship going aground at full speed in the Gulf of Suez, because he was totally distracted.

Read more about it here:-

The lookout has been sent elsewhere for other tasks.

To quote from the article:-

A number of lessons arise from the incident, the most obvious relates to lookouts. Many of us prefer to be alone when dealing with personal issues and its tempting to send the lookout away so we can be alone with our thoughts. Unfortunately, those are the very conditions under which we need to have a lookout present in case we get so deep in our own concerns we lose track of what’s going on.image
Whatever the psychological state of the officer of the watch a lookout might have made the difference.
At the same time, two alarms were not functioning, the bridge watch alarm which should have sounded every 12 minutes, and the echo sounder depth alarm. BSU says that it is uncertain that these would have alerted the chief officer to the situation.
Two GPS waypoint alarms sounded but were not responded to.

Mariners Welfare Guild - and you

Want to do something to help improve things for seafarers?

Take a look here:-

And then, if you agree, join.

Costs nothing but a wee bit of time.

BBC ORINOCO, where was the incident, actually?

As has been repeated in many sections of the media, the BBC ORINOCO episode off Mumbai was supposed to have taken place about 450 miles West of Mumbai. Pirates attacked, crew locked themselves up, Indian Navy landed up, crew rescued, and ship back on track again.

Brilliant work by our brothers from the Indian Navy, and hats off, thank you. Hopefully they tracked down the pirates, mother ship et al, and blew them out of the water. Either way, this blog and its writer and many of our colleagues, we thank, salute and are grateful to the Indian Navy - no two ways, the best of the best.

But somewhere the media seems to have got it, incorrect. The wire service report, PTI in this case, is here, and carried in toto by most media:-

There are some pretty photos up on rediff too, slideshow:--

But. But. But. Do we believe everything the media says, all the time?

Discreet grapevine informs some of us that the actual attack took place just off the Western limits of Bombay High, around 175 miles West of Mumbai, and the pirates were probably "locals".

A cap was presented to the Master of the BBC ORINOCO by the rescue team, apparently, on behalf of the Indian Navy.

So, where was this incident, and if it is right off Bombay high, then what are we looking at? One can understand the discretion on the part of the Indian Navy, but this is extremely serious, right on our doorstep and "local".

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Somali piracy now all over the Arabian Sea.

And here is where Al jazeera television gives us seafarers a different camera eye's view on the issue of piracy in the Arabian Sea.

The latest attacks, 300-400 miles west of Mangalore and Mumbai, reportedly by speedboats launched from mother ship / deep sea trawlers, makes this appear as more than just some bad dream that will go away.

The bigger issues here are:-

# psychological impact of ship's complement, especially the Master, when heading through the Arabian Sea. Imagine a voyage from, say, West Coast of India to literally anywhere in the world. Are we even aware of what the Master has to answer from crew, onboard ships with nothing more than fire-hose and SSO certificates, when we also know that other ships in the area are carrying armed guards?

# will the crew/officers get their wages when captured is another issue which the Master and company do not have an answer for. A quick poll indicated that people expect atleast triple wages while captured, and some heavy insurance in case of any damage caused during the capture.

One way out would be for the authorities, DGShipping, to ensure that all ships carrying Indian seafarers should:-

* provide insurance equal to total salary paid out monthly to their families while under capture by taking out policies equal to 24 months, and then pay the hardship allowance at twice that again when released.
*provide death/disability insurance equal to atleast 120 months total salary for all seafarers trading Arabian Sea.

This would obviously be in addition to the normal insurance and other benefits in case of any incidents.

I have met some people who have been released after hijacking, or after they were jailed abroad, and most of them have had their spirits broken.

Your views, please? Why should being captured by pirates be treated as anything lesser than a major disability, while on active duty??

Do you know that some seafarers have had to beg for their wages, and what their families are going through while the breadwinners are captured??

Georgia, the country, capital is Tbilisi.

I have a regular reader in Georgia, come on, who that?

OK, here's something more on Georgia - the country - their "ticket" is acceptable and on the white list. Helps a lot of people who, for any reason, may be stuck with their CoCs.

Norwegian pattern exam, objective, go for it. And Tbilisi is a lovely place for a lot of things, not too expensive either. And Batumi beats the whole lot. Can get there by train, too, from many places.

The MLC 2010 - a view from June 2009 . . .

Here's something I wrote on the MLC-2010 about a year and a half ago.

Big question - will the MLC 2010 just mean yet another youngish inspector with attitude onboard ships, and now in office, too?


Probably the most important maritime legislation coming our way is the "Consolidated Maritime Labour Convention" (CMLC). This is an amalgamation of all the various International Labour Organisation (ILO) instruments, documents and all other regulations and codes that pertain to life for seafarers - that's over 50 such international labour standards, some going as far back as the 1920s.. While the ratification and implementation criteria are already defined, and the pre-requisites for introducing it in practice are already in place, it will still be around 2011-2012 before it actually comes into effect.
What that means, in simple English, is that life at sea for law-abiding flags and seafarers onboard is about to change. Very much. The big thing it lays out is the right of seafarers to decent living and working conditions. Worldwide. In addition, at first glance, it is easy to read, and involves the view of both seafarers as well as owners/operators. And ofcourse, environmental protection - an even bigger subject under this one now.
The parts which will really interest those still at sea or planning to go to sea,  from the specific point of view of being a "shippie", which we can expect to see covered and implemented in very quick order, are laid out in brief. Broadly, these are divided into the following categories:-
1) the minimum requirements for seafarers to work onboard ships.
2) conditions of employment.
3) accomodation, recreation facilities, food and catering.
4) health protection, welfare, medical care and social protection.
5) compliance and enforcement.
So will shipping truly become the world's first global industry, with equal standards for all, regardless of nationality of individual or flag of vessel or any other differentiators? Wait, there is much more - and it probably also spells much better opportunity for seafarers who are ready to understand what is going on.
However, first off, look at the exemptions. Coastal ships, "traditional" vessels like dhows and junks, ships below a certain size, fishing vessels and some other specific types are exempted. But even there, fact remains, some amount of global standards would rub off eventually. Just see the level of sophistication and electronic equipment available on some of the dhows plying in and around the Gulf lately, for example, they put some 10-20 year old ships to shame. There is in all likelihood a "catch-up" kind of scenario going to exist here. First off, hopefully the "launches" at Gateway of India are improved.
On the other hand, the rules for implementation and ensuring adherence have just become tougher, and give Port State Control even wider and often sweeping powers. For example, Article V.6 of this Convention states very clearly that:- " Members shall prohibit violations of the requirements of this Convention and shall, in accordance with international law, establish sanctions or require the adoption of corrective measures under their laws that are adequate to discourage such violations [wherever they occur]." Ship detention can now be resorted to for simply being from a flag that did not ratify this convention, never mind adherence otherwise to the letter and spirit, which is a significant addition to and also rather important departure from the inspection based regime currently in force. Yours could be the best ship in the world, but if your flag was not adhering, then you can be detained - simple as that.
The next big thing is definition of a "seafarer". For the first time, this definition goes beyond the traditional navigator, engineer, saloon and other departments at sea - it now brings in a simple definition:- ""any person who is employed, engaged or works in any capacity on board a ship that is covered by the Convention."". That's really, really wide. Hotel workers onboard? Temporary "flying crew" joining a ship for repairs? Pilots, port or deep-sea? Cadets? Even workers from stevedoring gangs, discharging the ship? Writers, like yours truly, sailing on board for any reason soon? Training personnel?
But the biggest change is, as always, in the commercial aspects. Ships from non-complying countries will no longer be able to pose unfair and cheaper competition to those from complying countries. This is where the convention in a manner of speaking, "comes ashore". Will the laws cover everything from basic bills of lading onwards, to newer multi-modal documents, and would this then impact insurance as well as possible post-facto increase in commercially agreed on terms and conditions, as well as costs?
The debate may have just begun, the implementation is not in doubt. Overall, in this correspondent's opinion, this is a very welcome legislation for everyone.
Now let's be there to implement it? To do that, you first have to read it. All of it. Why wait for a "course", when it is there on the internet, with commentary and all?
Veeresh Malik is pleasantly surprised, after a decade in the infotech industry, to see the high level of international codification and improvement in things Mercantile Marine. Both at sea and ashore.

The power of the pen (keyboard . . .) at sea and ashore

Why do you think the name of your ship is written on the bow, and not simply hidden away somewhere inside voluminous documents and drawings, or replaced by an identification number like the registration number of your motor-car? Wouldn't it be simpler to replace everything by the full style and address of the corporate entity that owns/operates your ship, or the banks that hold the mortgage?
No, it wouldn't. Simply because your ship is known and acquires respect as well as a reputation by its name. So, as a matter of fact, do you and all of us.
Likewise, your views on anything in life. You can discuss them on the dining table, duty mess, smoke room or elsewhere. Or you can exchange SMS type messages, cryptic, short, hardly understood by many. Or if you really want them to be noticed - you can take the trouble of writing them down, eMail soft-copy as well as hard-copy printout, and send them out with your name appended at the end of whatever it is that you wanted to say, ask, declare, comment on.
The Power of the Pen. Certainly not as mighty as the waves relentlessly whipping aside as the bows slice through them. But certainly more powerful when you have the time to put your views across.
Write. Today. And if you feel you need a vehicle (or a vessel?) to help get your thoughts across, then this blog is the forum where you will realise the power that writing something with your name behind it wields. Or, in case you don't want to use your name, then trust me.
Go for it.

Bulk Iron Ore Fines Loading in India, by Capt. T. Rajkumar, Master Mariner.

(Kind courtesy Capt. T. Rajkumar)

TOPIC: Bulk Iron Ore Fines Loading in India.
Course objectives – Safety & prevention of accidents being the main criteria. 
Ref  IMO Bulk Code.
·        Review situation in India.
·        Application of the BC Code (IMO)
Introducing the topic---
·         In the year, 2002 Iron  Ore “Fines” was sought for by Buyers abroad --to replace “Lumps” and the GOI had approved. This was a major change in iron ore cargo specs from the earlier Lumps to Ore Fines in Exports. Ore Lumps of larger size does not usually become a slurry if wet as the water drains out.
·         With Ore Prices just soaring and China Buying  the all and sundry in the private sector came into the fray.... to Mine & Sell & Ship Out.
·         Exports hit an an all time high but, Loading norms of the IMO- BC Code was not understood or heeded and the trade took many aspects for granted.
·         Also many ports that used to close in Monsoon season just continued all time.
·         With increasing demand for steel, the export of Bulk Ore Fines steadily increased since 2002.  With boom time, many older ships were chartered at lowest freights and soon shoddy operations took its toll. This eventually gave rise to  numerous Bulk Carrier casualties and especially the case of  m.v. Asian Forest, sunk outside at Mangalore and m.v. Black Rose sunk off Paradip drew attention. Refer List of Casualties on last page. This finally got  the attention of the Media- !! -then the trade and industry took notice..
We need to now ask a few queries.
·         After the 12 nos. casualties  reported  and follow instructions  by the  DG, MS Notice,  IMO 2009 Revised, P&I  Club Advice to members & Reports from the Shipp Enquiry Committee--                  What is the position today ?
·         The  awareness and application of the IMO code on loading norms , much less it’s usage is still very poor. The scene all over India is just one of total disregard with compartmentalised working.
·         Shippers need to address the instructions listed in IMO BC Code.
Q: Who will control this ?
·         Refer current practices in the Iron Ore trade and -it is a shocker. Ore Fines is exported all the year round and no stoppage in Monsoon season.
·         Ore is mined and crushed at Mines from Bihar to Jharkhand/AP-Karnataka  and transported in open trucks /rakes to shipment ports. During the monsoon rains the ore piles remain  in the open yards and the moisture content exceeds limits . With heavy rains, pools of stagnant water are seen water but many Shippers wish to continue  loaded Wet Ore.
·         Refer current practices in the Iron Ore trade and Media Reports-it is a shocker. Fines is exported all the time and no stoppage in Monsoon season. Ore is mined and Crushed at Mines from Bihar /Jharkhand/AP-Karnataka  and then  transported in open trucks /rakes to shipment ports. During the monsoon rains they remain  in the open yards and the moisture content exceeds limits . With heavy rains, pools of stagnant water are seen water. This has been photographed and even reported with a caption "Ore in a lake of water!!
·         However despite all circulars and guidelines many Shippers wish to continue  loaded Wet Ore. How does the Ships Officer - Owners and relate with Shippers and Port Authority here on such matters .
·          If a Prudent Master stops loading-- will his vessel be shifted to Outer Roads. (It appears that Ports can be quite unreasonable to achieve a fast turnround).
·         In monsoon rains and cargo soaked on open stacks results in - “Ore Fines getting soaking wet. Thus M- TMT does increase beyond permissible limits  ...will turn into a Slurry and this is unsafe for loading for sea passage.       The Mangalore casualty was seen as a direct result of this as Reports will indicate.
·         The excuse given by Shippers and Assayers to the Shipping Enquiry Committee -Quote “Unable to assess M, FMP of large Bulk Quantity” unquote. This is quite an absurd statement.
·         Loading even in heavy Rains continues today despite various guidelines.
·         The problem really begins here.
·         Who will Monitor this?
·         What Loading supervision and control do we have ?
·         What is the role of Port Authority .
Addressing key factors:
What can ships personnel do ?
·         How is the   Ship’s Officer managing the loading ?
·     Does the ship’s officer  inspect cargo  stack on jetty and do the ‘Can Test’.
·         Does the Ship get a  correct   quality Certificate from the Shipper’s Assayer ?
·         P&I Intervention – What is the experience on this assistance on application of the BC Guidelines ?
LOOKING AT SOLUTIONS.-Start at Fixture time with Shippers and Load Port—seems like a good place to begin but this is entirely a Ship owners decision
·         Supervise Loading -don't leave to chance.
·         Be totally informed and communicate.
·         Have Sampling & Testing organized  standard, calibrated equipment please-
·         Trained and competent samplers & analysis.
·         Inform Pre-shipment  specs. to Owner & Master in advance by email.
1) The 2009 edition of the IMO Bulk Code is really  an excellent doc; Possibly the best edition seen till date and is most comprehensive.

The first 44 pages of instructions itself tells it all- .So also, DG circular on ore loading.
Q:  Have Shippers ever read this or much less used it. 

2) In all fairness, the problem is more in Monsoon conditions with soaking wet ores. Then we also see the lack of regard for Trimming & levelling in stow.. the Shipper is quite oblivious to all this and rests in his "Angle of Repose!! (Sorry about that dig, but it is a fact).

3) The situation in 2007 & the casualties was mainly with old ships and poor management in all aspects of PSI- Load -stow-trim  sail-  fast turnround go.. go--.
This problem mainly arose due a total disregard for the IMO- Bulk Code norms and too much of commercial pressures and this  is quite evident. No doubt 2007 was a bad year-see casualty statistics.

4) The Port Authority's role in this seems to be a limited one, despite what ever legal instruments may exist. The Major Ports Act itself is nearly a 'century old' and  Ports  only respond as Custodian or bailee of cargo etc-so no real proactive role is seen on Cargo Loading matters. The Ports main priority being the turnround and Qty-Output/ shipped mainly.

5) With so many new ports and "inexperienced” personnel, mostly untrained in BC Code the "awareness’ to BC code  is  a key to correcting the situation. Regrettably, we also have today much confusion caused by some dubious Operators  who have not read the directives on loading of Iron ore fines. Then some Operators inc Shippers just do not cooperate and disregard all risk control guidelines.. 

The paradox is whilst all loading directives and control is about due diligence being exercised in the interest of safety, the fact is that few shippers cooperate.

Finally, a Preshipment inspection procedure was laid out by end of 2009- and has slowly gained acceptance.i.e. even before loading commenced as the Port Rules do not permit  "Wet Ore" once loaded in holds to be discharged, resulting in an impasse. P&I support and loss prevention measures came to assist the ship master from the arrival of Cargo, with sampling and testing ( PSI ) to loading and final topping when sought by Owners.

IMO, BC Code 2009.
DG Shipping Circulars & MS Notice
P&I Club Circulars
Apart from the above, the National Shipping Committee also met. The GOI Circular from Delhi of May 28, 2010 "guideline" was issued.

Finally in 2010 we seem to have arrived at a reasonable consensus to Monitor the work with P&I support as follows:

Ship & cargo survey attendance to include:

1)  To inspect the cargo at shippers stock yard before arrival of the vessel and to carry out joint sampling with shippers representative / surveyor.

2)  To carryout analysis of one composite sample for Total Moisture, Flow Moisture Point & Transportable Moisture Limit.

3)  The test results of TML to be made available to the Master of the Vessel prior to loading for reference.

4)  To attend the vessel on arrival and carryout monitoring survey of the cargo to be loaded.

5) To Carryout Regular CAN Test and Instant Moisture Test of the sample at hook point during loading.

6)  If a parcel of cargo is suspected to be wet during loading and bringing it to the notice of the concerned. 
7) Surveyor will allow such cargo to be loaded where moisture content is found to be less than TML.  If moisture content is more than TML then please recommend Master to reject such cargo. 
8) OPTIONAL- To carry out initial & final Draft survey and assist Master in stowing and trimming of cargo after loading.

Ships condition apart--bulk loading can be well organised and managed if basic norms are followed  I do believe this can be well managed with Cooperation from all, plus a better knowledge of the BC Code in loading and esp. due respect by shippers for the specifics.

As a former Surveyor to the mechanical ore Terminal at Chennai (commissioned in 1978 ) operated by the Port & MMTC- we had good results and work progressed with due cooperation from all with successful outcomes.

Time changes many things with expansion and costings and degeneration often sets in when unchecked. This matter was earlier taken up for Masters Revalidation Course. It was  also presented at the Nautical Inst. Chennai Chapter seminar by me this year.

All P&I Clubs have published papers on this matter and it is just a matter of taking this procedure across to Trade –i.e. Shippers and all connected inc. the Port Authority,

There is a serious need to build better Awareness to the BC Code within the shore support sector attending bulk cargoes. 

NOTE: In the 1987 -1992 period Bulker Casualties  were reported all across the world and esp at high loading terminals. In the1990s when the Master's Revalidation course was set on stream "Bulk Carrier disasters" was a key subject- Senior mariners will recall the case study  of the m.v. Derbyshire. The Nautical Institute and later the Classification societies had done much research on Bulkers and provided valuable data. Sadly, all is now archived in vaults. History repeats is a truism. A few problems had also surfaced in India--but did not lead to a sinking. Generally it was Improper loading/overloading, heeled and with torsional deflection - inability to  close hatch covers with disregard for trimming


Load Port
m.v. WEN  QIAO
Capsized and sank at North Korea.
Beached with 35 deg list near Mangalore
Developed severe list and entered Port of Vizag for disch.
Beached with 20 deg. List off Car –Nicabar Islands
Capsized and sank at Andaman Sea – West of Bangkok
Sank off Mangalore
m.v. HODASCO 15
Capsized and sank off Malaysia
Sank shortly after departing
Serious list short after sailing and returned to load port.