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Sunday, 24 June 2012

Dat of the Seafarer

Tomorow is the day of the Seafarer. Whatever that means, because as of now, the Indian seafarer is getting it in the neck from all sides - pirates, criminalisation, fatigue, shortage of trained personnel, recession, taxation, sub-standard working conditions, the works. And now, those who would misrule us, are expected to relax cabotage, literally giving away the right to ply Indian flag ships on the Indian coast with Indian seafarers to mickey mouse Flag of Convenience rust buckets. Treason is a word that comes to mind.

memories of TS Dufferin

Please read this article in toto to get an idea of the democratic and fair way in which training and life was imparted on the TS DUFFERIN.

Especially the important aspect of being judged by your peers.

When and how did this change on the Dufferin/Rajendra, after Plaan/Inderjit Singh took over??

Thursday, 21 June 2012

mv RENA conviction-attacking the symptoms, not the disease

Cheapest FOCs with overworked 3rd world crews are NOT the solution.

The Maritime Union is calling for a complete overhaul of New Zealand shipping policy to avoid a repeat of the Rena disaster.
Maritime Union of New Zealand General Secretary Joe Fleetwood says the main problem is that New Zealand desperately needs a shipping policy.
Mr Fleetwood says the jailing of the Rena's Master and Mate was a case of attacking the symptom but not the disease of deregulated Flag of Convenience shipping (Editorial note: see more information about Flag of Convenience shipping below).
"The approach for the last generation has been for Government to abdicate its responsibility to ensure standards in the maritime industry."
As long as Flag of Convenience shipping was given a "free ride" in New Zealand waters, Rena style incidents were "almost guaranteed".
"The surprising thing is how long it took for a shipping disaster of this type to happen, not that it did happen."
Mr Fleetwood says the Australian Government this week passed Shipping Reform Package bills to regenerate Australian owned and Australian crewed shipping.
New Zealand, by contrast, was still locked into failed deregulation policies from the 1980s.
"Do we need more Rena style disasters to get the same action on merchant shipping in our waters?"
Mr Fleetwood says the reintroduction of cabotage (giving priority to New Zealand owned and crewed shipping) was now back on the agenda following the Australian developments.
He says that it was extremely disturbing that a maritime trading nation like New Zealand was now completely dependent on global shipping lines and Flag of Convenience vessels.
"We need a New Zealand shipping line to ensure our maritime and economic security."
There were a number of other basic changes that could be easily made to rapidly improve safety in the industry, such as the mandatory use of dedicated shipping lanes, which could have prevented the Rena disaster.
Greater regulation of shipping was required to monitor fatigue, safety standards, and the condition of vessels.
"The crew are under enormous pressure for faster turnarounds from the owners. In this environment, errors and bad judgement will continue."
Increasing the liability on the owners and charterers of vessels was obviously required.
The Maritime Union had also lobbied the Government previously to the Rena Disaster for the provision of a quick response vessel to assist for shipping or offshore oil and gas industry emergencies.
Mr Fleetwood says the deregulated and "toxic" competition in the entire maritime industry was responsible for many problems in shipping and ports.
He says the recent moves to remove foreign flagged charter vessels from the New Zealand fishing industry were an acknowledgement of the crisis in the wider maritime industry.
The changes had vindicated a long running campaign by the Union to get the fishing industry cleaned up.
The problems experienced with Flag of Convenience shipping in New Zealand waters had many similarities, and had to be dealt with in the same way.
Mr Fleetwood says the Maritime Union welcomed the growing political support for New Zealand shipping from opposition parties.
What is Flag of Convenience (FOC) shipping?
A flag of convenience ship is one that flies the flag of a country other than the country of ownership.
Cheap registration fees, low or no taxes and freedom to employ cheap labour are the motivating factors behind a shipowner's decision to 'flag out'.
Some of these registers have poor safety and training standards, and place no restriction on the nationality of the crew. Sometimes, because of language differences, seafarers are not able to communicate effectively with each other, putting safety and the efficient operation of the ship at risk.
In many cases these flags are not even run from the country concerned.
Once a ship is registered under an FOC many shipowners then recruit the cheapest labour they can find, pay minimal wages and cut costs by lowering standards of living and working conditions for the crew.
Globalisation has helped to fuel this rush to the bottom. In an increasingly fierce competitive shipping market, each new FOC is forced to promote itself by offering the lowest possible fees and the minimum of regulation. In the same way, ship owners are forced to look for the cheapest and least regulated ways of running their vessels in order to compete, and FOCs provide the solution.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The real Gateway to India - Chagos Archipelago (part 1 & 2)

So how and where and when did we just simply give up the whole British Indian Ocean Territories, our claim to it, the Chagos, and what does it mean to many of us?

""There was a time, glory days, as my seafaring friends will recall, this was '70s and '80s, when if you flew the Indian flag and had "INDIA" painted on the sides of your ship, nobody in the world touched you. The Persian Gulf was at war, 1971 was fresh in the world's mind, Vietnam was drawing to a big American defeat, USSR was dissolving, England was fighting Argentine, but ships with INDIA painted in huge day-glow letters on the side (and huge means each alphabet was 5-10 metres in height, depending on the size of the ship) were inviolate.""


""The first island to go was what is known today as Bab el Manded. Used to be known as Dwar-e-Mandir, or, the gateway to the temples. Located off Aden, a mere speck but straddling the entry and exit to the Red Sea, it is still important enough. In mythology, it is where the Red Sea was split into two to save the Faithful, but in history, these were low-lying swamps which the early humans crossed over to reach Asia from Africa. 60000 years or so ago.
For us it used to be a point of reference, as it was for seafarers for centuries before, from where we knew the courses by heart to a full range of ports from the entry to the Persian Gulf through the Straits of Hormuz to the West Coast of India, or the base of Ceylon called Devundra or Lord's Port and now known as Dondra Head, and thence beyond into the wonders of Malacca.""


read on . . .

The case being made to reduce wages for Indian seafarers

Are Indian seafarers pricing themselves out of the market, and if so, what can be done? That was the question put to me and initially, with the accompanying data viewed in purely mathematical terms, it did appear to be the case.

For example, and all figures approximate, in USD and basis contractual wages per month or pro-rata. Indian officers are typically between these two figures.

Newly promoted Master/Chief Engineer: North-West European countries  / 13000 and Far East Developing countries  /  6500

Entry level 3rd Officer / 4th Engineer: North-West European countries / 5300 and Far East Developing countries /  2200

The argument or hypothesis put forward is that Indian officers need to voluntarily start accepting salaries closer to the salaries accepted by officers from the Far Eastern countries if they don't want to see themselve being out-priced from the market. Obviously, this does not take into account flag-state requirements, and applies more to open
register employment opportunities - though even some flag states are now relaxing this when it comes to employing foreign nationals on their ships.

This would be correct if the maritime industry was a simple operational industry, where the financial aspects over-rode everything else, and humans could be increasingly replaced by machines and computers. Or treat the sailor as sub-humans. To some extent, that is the way the industry has evolved over the past 2-3 decades, but there is simply no more elasticity left in the constant battle to reduce head-count on board by every means possible. How much more can the owners and flag states play around with so-called safe manning, before port states start imposing their own conditions, is already being played out.

If anything, as enquiry reports in more than a few accidents have shown lately, fatigue and lack of competence are the two biggest reasons going hand-in-hand while safety and efficiency take a beating. Certificates of competency and time-sheets are one thing, realities are another, and ship-owners as well as operators must realise that the issue is deeper than just salaries or rather the daily-wage kind of contractual numbers.

One solution would be for the same people advocating further reduction in head-counts to spend some time on board real working ships, as pursers, to try and understand the realities involved. And on terms and conditions as applicable to 3rd Officers.

Because. Then only will management, especially financial management, learn that the modern young seafarer, as with any other career professional, is looking for more than just money. There are two other very important parameters involved:- future potential and respect at the workplace. Nothing more needs to be said or written on how both these paramters have gown downhill over the last 2-3 decades.

Not that salaries have kept pace either. Compared with other avenues open to younger people, merchant navy salaries have not kept up. Simple as that.

Speaking with a few youngsters in the Merchant Navy on the subject, one can understand their frustration - managements tend to ignore the fact that their frontline operational staff expect more than just money. Leave alone a reduction in wages, many of them were of the opinion that even doubling of wages without improving working conditions and future potential meant nothing to them.

Which takes me back to the solution - which has to go back to basics. Tthe Indian seafarer was and should still be linked to the Indian flag ships. That is where the solution lies - there will be no dearth of very well qualified people willing to work for lower salaries as long as the other two parameters of respect at the workplace and future potential are met. Sadly, the Indian flag shipowners have defaulted on this responsibility terribly over the last few decades, and this needs to be resolved first.

If, hypothetical if, the Indian shipowners simply matched terms and conditions offered by the Indian Navy to theiir younger officers, then many of the same younger officers see no reason why a 20-year working life could not be something easy to achieve. With all the other benefits that accrue to shipowners able to plan for the future. And more.

The example of the coastal and foreign going Chinese flag fleet can be quoted in this context. The example of how many of us in the '70s and '80s chose to stay on with Indian flag vessels at lower salaries for the same reasons can also be quoted.

By all means, think about reducing salaries to make the Indian seafarer more competitive, but it can not be a stand-alone. It may sound strange, but bench-marking the Indian Navy for this is not such a wild idea - the two services have always been related and till not too long ago, the best who came out of the Training Ships actually went to the Indian Navy.

The rest, the not so best, or the better than most, take your pick, can then certainly work in the open registers.

And there, let market forces decide.