November, 2007 – Editor`s Page

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From the Editor`s Desk

Call for Ethical Administration of National Maritime Discipline. ONLY THE ALMIGHTY GOD CAN HELP THE SEAFARERS. Merciless Mariners though inducted into Indian National Maritime Administration, without much competition, instead of thanking the almighty GOD, for having got inducted into the office of the Directorate General of Shipping, Govt. of India, unlike other UPSC Competitive Exams., which is under tough competition, heartlessly forgetting their veracity of poor academic background, treats the seafarers shabbily, neglecting their welfare.

During my earlier days, mariners calling at MMD office were at the mercy of the peon and clerks. Now restrictions imposed for seafarer`s entry into MMD office by the security guard itself? This is a very sad and serious issue, which is to be addressed early, respecting their hard-earned leave period, while seafarers meant to be more with their close and near dear ones after a long separation, while they pump in (earning) considerable foreign-exchange to their country of origin. Hence, the need to focus on “Professional Ethics and Human Values” as said in my editorial of May 2007 Issue.

Aren`t we exploiting the situation for their inability to get together and raise their genuine voice, unlike shore-based Officers, Supervisors, workers Associations, Unions etc. who make tall claims. All this, very well known to one and all, of their inability to get together, owing to their mobility of service and while ashore (on their hard-earned leave), to be attached with their close and near dear ones but on the contrary seafarers have to prioritise by running pillar to post for the renewal of their Passport, US Visa, Motor Driving Licence, CDC, revalidation of their certificates before due date to MMD offices etc. Hence, the imperative need for a common platform to vent their grievances, to be organised by the National Shipping Administration. Though provision of SEAFARERS FORUM and Guest Book existed but for namesake, were inactive to the feedback (ideas and info. given), when questioned, now the access in the site is denied giving no reasons, during this RTI age. Either the person entrusted, is neither committed/serviceable nor competent etc. Hence, Seafarers getting exploited, even after freedom and independence from foreign hands, achieved over 60 long years ago.

Seafarer`s Unions/Associations (Officers and that of Ratings) need to be regulated by the national/state governments, for Foreign-going/ coastal vessels respectively to oversee and instil justice to their seafaring countrymen. I did wish to join and serve the department, having been seeing the deficiencies and defects in the system, while I was serving with the nation owned Shipping Corporation of India, by fulfilling the formalities of forwarding my application through proper channel, for the post of Assistant Director General of Shipping, having been serving in the permanent roles of the Govt. of India Enterprise. I did get a UPSC interview call for attending on 31-12-1990, which was after my long leave ashore and after rejoining vessel (ship), during acute shortage of marine engineers, hence not relieved to attend( a lost opportunity).

My experience on Coastal, Govt. of India Research vessels, managed by SCI speaks of total mismanagement. Vessel hardly has skeleton strength to meet exigencies while the vessel is in port, as most of the local mariners are at their homes, though on ship`s article. They influence SCI Head Office Mumbai, seeking vessel of their choices, which calls at their home-port. For Radio Officers and Medical Officers, all the coastal ports are at their disposal, they make use of the entire ships port stay, by returning just before the ship sails, as though not on article. Since they have their men in the monopolistic unions ashore, have their pay-scale fixation illogically high with long extended increments unlike promotional categories thereby they draw wages more than senior navigating / engineer officers. All this causes discontentment amongst officers onboard. Once a serious incident took place, on Cochin based Research Vessel Sagar- Sampada, anchored between Cochin Shipyard and Naval Establishment (INS Venduruthy)waters, while the anchor holding rope of the vessel snapped off and vessel started drifting, when self then Third Engineer Officer, had to give Main Engines for manoeuvring, in the absence of Chief and 2nd Engineer, on an emergency call from Chief Officer, who was also the only officer, on deck. The vessel was brought under control. No disciplinary action taken by the then Surveyor In charge, MMD Cochin though reported, hushed up since the Master, Chief Engineer and the Surveyor, were Cochinnates (locals). National Maritime Administration should have made a serious note of this, but incident went unrecorded, to at least learn from mistakes. Similarly lapses in attending to maintenance schedules, skipped practically but for documentation. Business need to be though based on trust, which be based on integrity. If there is integrity in policy, fairness and reputation, it is easier to attract and retain talents. Core values are honesty and transparency in this competitive world. Foreign investments will also follow were there is less corruption. Good governance brings in the best mechanism to instil fairness, transparency, leveraging of technology and genuinely addressing the grievances of stakeholders.

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Management of Shipping Companies need to ensure, their prime responsibility of creating a conducive work- environment that causes people to give their best every day, whether the vessel is out at sea or in port. In theory this could appear simple, since the overwhelming majority of employees employed out at sea, not distracted from their outside world, on social commitments. Mostly, influential people take job on coastal ships to be close to their family with article wages.

Those mariners who make decisions in the Office of the Directorate General Shipping, have forgotten the real sea-life, may be owing to their short stint of life out at sea, nor are they interested to keep abreast of all the hardships faced by squeezed unqualified (without industrial engineering background) manning decisions they make, to only please the ship-owners/ managers. The Conferences and International seminars conducted are only like show-pieces, for those on office-work to socialise, which will not yield desired results, without realistic feedback from active seafarers. Shipping as an industry, need to be based on latest theory and as well of modern practice, keeping to the times. Hence, there is an inherent flaw in the existing system. We need to therefore bring about an emotional integration among the seafarers, during this computer age. This appeal to introduce “Social Security Bill for Seafarers” towards social justice. Prime responsibility of any government is to ensure safety and health and protect the interests of Seafarers who are doing hazardous jobs out in the deep seas, with risks and sacrifices and earning foreign exchange to national exchequer. Look into the welfare of retired seafarers, who end up more and more in Old Age Homes, owing to collapse of the past “Joint Family System”. This cry is not only for the socially disadvantaged but also for the affluent sections.

Dr. Chandran Peechulli,
Ph.D; MBA; D.Sc; FIE(India), PgDIMS(UK), PgTED; FIIPE; MSEI; MSNAME(USA),
Ex.Chief Engineer(Marine), G.M.(Tech) Crossworld Shipping.
Managing Editor & Publisher-“MARINE WAVES” International Maritime Newsletter.

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