Monday, 21 July, 2008

Foreign officers to come aboard Indian ships

The Government of India has finally cleared the decks for Indian shipowners to employ foreign officers to overcome the shortage that they are experiencing. A circular to this effect has been issued by the Directorate-General of Shipping (DGS).
The DGS, Ms Kiran Dhingra, however, indicated that the given permission is conditional. Shipowners are now being permitted to employ foreign officers only on the merit of each case, and there may well be a limit to the number of officers a ship-owner can employ.
According to Mr S S Kulkarni, Secretary General of Indian National Shipowners’ Association (INSA), Indian shipping companies have been facing a shortage of about 1,000 officers. This number is expected to soar with the industry lining up a massive capital expenditure programme to acquire more vessels.
It has repeatedly been pointed out to the ministry that since the aviation sector was allowed to hire expatriates, the shipping industry should also accordingly be given permission likewise to employ foreign officers.
The DGS’ proposal to this effect to the Ministry of Shipping (MoS) took some time for a government decision because it also involved the approvals of the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Labour. Both Ministries have now given their approval.
In its circular the directorate has stated that it is its conscious policy, to promote the employment of Indian seafarers worldwide. At the same time, it is the responsibility of the Indian Administration to foster this development and ensure the efficient maintenance of an Indian mercantile marine in a manner best suited to serve the national interest. With the growing tonnage to meet expanding Indian international trade, it has become necessary to ensure that adequate and quality seafarers are made available to Indian shipowners.
In view of this situation Mr. Samuel Darse, Dy. Director General of Shipping stated that having been convinced of the serious shortage of qualified seafarers (which is proving to be detrimental to the growth of Indian tonnage and adversely affecting the smooth operation of the Indian fleet) Indian shipowners are now allowed to recruit a limited number of foreign nationals to work on board Indian ships in both nautical and engineering disciplines is a reasonable one and in the larger national interest. Having been thus satisfied, in exercise of the powers conferred by clause (1) of Section 456 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 read with notification issued by the Government of India vide S.O. No.3144 dated 17th December, 1960, the Director General of Shipping and Ex-officio Additional Secretary to the Govt. of India ( DGS) is pleased to grant, with effect from the date of issue of this Circular and till further orders, a relaxation to all Indian ships from compliance with the requirements of Section 76 and 99 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958, subject to the following conditions:
· The manning shall be in accordance with the prescribed "Safe Manning Document";
· Not more than two foreign national seafarers shall be engaged in a ship at a time, and the Master of the Indian Flag ship must be of Indian Nationality.
· In case of emergency / SOS /death of Master at Sea /on board ship, responsibility to handle and maintain safe custody of classified publications should be given to the next in command as per hierarchy who is of Indian National.
· Foreign national seafarers employed on Indian vessels, as provided under this notification, shall belong to any of the following countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Italy, Malaysia, Romania, Russia, United Kingdom and the Ukraine.
· Such foreign national seafarers holding Certificates of Competency issued by or under the authority of maritime administrations other than India should have in their possession a Continuous Discharge Certificate (CDC) or a Certificate of Discharge issued to them by the national administration of the seafarer.
· In addition they should have the knowledge of legislation of Indian administration relevant to the functions they are to perform on Indian ships subject to satisfactory assessment by this Directorate, or they should have undergone a 3 (three) days approved course on National Maritime Law conducted by the Lal Bahadur Shastri College of Advanced Maritime Studies & Research (LBSCAMSAR), Mumbai;
· Such foreign nationals ought to have obtained an endorsement from the Indian Maritime Administration under Regulation 1/10 of the STCW 1995.

The permission for employment of foreign Nationals on board Indian Flag Vessels shall be taken on a case to case basis. When applying for permission, the shipping company shall also show proof of having the necessary clearances from the Ministries of Home Affairs and External Affairs.
This Order and exemption shall apply only for the category of seafarers who are certified as Officers and not seamen, who do not belong to the category of seamen certified as Officers.

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