(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
July 24, 2011
Whither Indian Shipping?
M K Pandhe
fact is that Indian shipyards are facing a crisis due to the policy of
mishaps that occur to the Indian ships while they are on the sea is
also a big
problem, causing serious concern about environment. The oil spills from
the ships that sunk while taking a turn has caused several
problems for the onshore people as well as the marine life. There is no
the country to recover from the shipowners the cost of removal of the
environmental damage. The instances of ship becoming aground, as it
happened in a case near the Juhu Beach of Mumbai, create serious
problems for the people staying in the nearby areas. The National
Board has noted an increase in the occurrence of such mishaps in the
period, and therefore the government of
important agenda discussed in the recent meeting of the National
was that of piracy in the
it is, these pirates have with them most modern weapons, satellite
phones and other communication equipment which obviously come to them
multinational companies. There is
practically no effective controlling government in
The interviews given by some of the sailors who were released after having spent a period as hostage, reveal that they had to face severe difficulties about getting proper food. Some of the Indian seamen died in captivity due to non-availability of adequate medical treatment. They find it extremely difficult to contact their family members. The released hostages have mentioned the callous attitude of the concerned government officials who failed to show even necessary humanitarian attitude towards the sailors. Relatives of some of the victims have also complained about the unhelpful attitude of the officials concerned. The government leaves everything to the shipowners who involve in negotiations with the pirates for ransom. Some seamen had to be in the captivity of the pirates for as long as 14 months in most inhuman living conditions.
There are also reports that some shipowners do not pay the ransom demanded and prefer to surrender the ship to the pirates, thus leaving their seamen at the latter’s mercy. When the pirates release some sailors after receiving ransom, there is the possibility that another team of pirates would attack them. This enhances the threat to the life of our sailors.
National Shipping Board has several times discussed the question of
of coastal shipping industry in
According to official statistics, water transport has been the cheapest mode of transport. The cost of fuel in water transport is only 4.5 per cent of the total cost of operation while it works out to be 8 per cent in case of rail transport and 31 per cent in case of road transport.
700 coastal ships are operating in
An argument was advanced during a meeting of the National Shipping Board that high manning costs are responsible for the uneconomic operation of these ships. This was opposed by the CITU representative who pointed out that the wages paid to the workers in coastal ships are extremely low and cannot be said to be responsible for uneconomic operation of coastal shipping.
of the Indian rivers too can be made navigable it the government of
committees appointed by the government of
governments all over the world exercise the cabotage law, i.e. the
control over air traffic, coastal shipping and trade within the
territory. This clearly stipulates that the costal shipping should be
only for domestic shipping companies.
However, due to the pressure of multinational shipping magnates,
government has permitted foreign shipping companies to undertake
shipping in utter violation of the cabotage law. This
has adversely affected the coastal
shipping industry as well. Despite the repeated recommendations by the
Shipping Board, the central government continues to disregard the
interest. The Shipping Board once again drew the government of
AGAINST INDIAN SEAMEN
per Section 6 of the Income Tax Act, an Indian seafarer serving on
Indian shipping industry is facing acute shortage of trained officers “because of the drift of personnel from Indian ships to foreign flag ships under lure of tax free pay packet”. To quote again INSA observation, “The situation has become so had that it is threatening cargo due to the constraints on the operation of Indian vessels on account of non-availability of suitable officer”.
The CITU had been raising this issue during the Union Finance Ministers pre-budget discussions on several occasions but the government did not pay any attention to this gross discrimination against Indian Seamen. This issue was discussed at length in the meeting of the National Shipping Board and it was decided that the Chairman should lead a delegation of the National Shipping Board to the Prime Minister and the Union Finance Minister to get this discrimination withdrawn by the Government of India. The Ministry of Shipping has supported the proposal to exempt Indian Seafarers from the income tax net, but the Ministry of Finance is still not agreeable to the proposal so far. This issue has been raised by the National Shipping Board on several occasions in the past but the UPA Government is consistently refusing to end the discrimination against Indian Seamen.
There is acute shortage of marine offices for Indian Ships who are compelled to engage foreign marine offices at higher salaries to meet the statutory requirement.
DELAY IN WAGE
The National Maritime Board (NMB), which finalises two year wage settlements for foreign-going seamen, has not yet seriously commenced the wage negotiations. The management has proposed a two year moratorium on wage settlement and the National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) has clandestinely agreed to one year moratorium. The Forward Seamen’s Union of India (FSUI), an affiliate of the CITU, has opposed any such moratorium and proposed that wage settlement should cover the two year period.
It is now proposed that the NMB should cover the offshore vessels, home-trade ships and petty officers also. But the membership of the NMB has not been adjusted to cover the expanded companies. In these sectors, the FSUI covers a majority of workers but its representatives are not included in the negotiating team. The FSUI has demanded an equal number of representatives of the NUSI and FSUI on the NMB but the NUSI is opposing the proposal; this has resulted in a stalemate in the wage negotiations. There is acute discontent among the seamen and the FSUI has called for a struggle for commencement of the negotiations with a reorganised NMB.
The Director General of Shipping has filed an affidavit in the Mumbai High Court stating that the NUSI should alone negotiate with the management. This has complicated the matters. According to the verification conducted by the government of India, the FSUI has the largest membership among the Indian seamen, but the DG Shipping’s office has totally ignored this reality. The shipowners have given their opinion that they would like to negotiate with both the unions but yet the stalemate continues because of the recalcitrant attitude of the NUSI. Therefore the FSUI has decided to launch a struggle including a strike action to ventilate the grievances of the workers.
The seamen all over the country have supported the position of the FSUI. The workers are not going to accept any moratorium on wage settlement. They have expressed their firm opinion to oppose any moratorium and to fight for a just settlement on the charter of demands submitted by the trade unions in the shipping industry.