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Saturday, May 25, 2002

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Foreign cos may stop contribution to Seamen's PF

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MUMBAI, May 24

FOREIGN shipping companies employing Indian seamen may stop contributing to the gilts scam-tainted Seamen's Provident Fund (SPF).

SPF reportedly lost Rs 100 crore to rogue traders in the Government securities market.

According to agents recruiting seamen for foreign lines, under the Seamen Provident Fund Act, it is not mandatory for foreign lines to contribute to the SPF. Unlike Indian companies, foreign ship-owners have been making payment to the fund as part of an agreement with the seamen unions. For Indian companies, participation in SPF is mandatory.

With the SPF suffering such huge losses, foreign ship-owners were questioning the credibility of the scheme, shipping sources said. They are understood to have threatened to withdraw from the scheme unless the Government makes good the loss. Foreign ship-owners are expected to meet here shortly to discuss the issue.

Currently, over 4,000 Indian seamen, who are members of the SPF, are employed on foreign vessels. According to the sources, foreign lines may stop contribution once the current agreement with the unions expires early next year. The shaken confidence in the SPF may also lead foreign companies to opt for alternative security schemes for seamen.

A joint meeting of representatives of Indian and foreign shipping lines and seamen unions decided to represent to the Government to make good the losses to the SPF. Otherwise, seamen, the sources fear, may try to withdraw their PF accounts in the form of loans or advances.

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Foreign cos may stop contribution to Seamen's PF

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