Air India ready to fly Indian seafarers overseas to join ships

P Manoj MUMBAI/MAY 10 | Updated on May 10, 2020 Published on May 10, 2020

Representative image   -  Bloomberg

But, logistic issues could torpedo the plan

Air India said it is agreeable to take Indian seafarers to USA, UK and Singapore to help them join ships on work, while flying to various overseas destinations to bring back Indian nationals stranded abroad.

But, thousands of Indian seafarers stranded in various ports/locations across the globe are yet to be allowed to fly on the inbound repatriation flights.

“Seafarers with valid CDCs (continuous discharge certificates) and an employers’ letters indicating the name and details of the holder, and the port of commencement of duty (USA,UK and Singapore only) may also purchase tickets on outbound flights,” Air India said in a notice on the eligibility criteria for purchase of tickets for outbound repatriation flights by Air India and Air India Express under the Vande Bharat Mission.

“Repatriation of Indian seafarers from overseas is still being looked at,” a top Shipping Ministry official said.

For outbound journey, India seafarers can make use of the e-passes issued by the Directorate General of Shipping to go to the airport.

Seafarers looking to join ships, however, say that the plan is not workable.

“It’s not that easy,” said Dhyan Ramakrishnan, from Kozhikode in Kerala, who has been waiting since March to join a ship. The logistics has to be worked out with precision,” he noted.

“Normally what they do is they arrange the flight in such a way that the vessel arrives at the port and the joining seafarer reaches the destination airport. The company arranges for the ticket on the same day or on the day the ship is at the port,” he said.

Singapore is under lockdown till June 1 and contacting the shipping company there or arranging for an agent is difficult.

“I think it is basically to keep seafarers quiet. Nothing else. Nobody is going to go because everybody is crying for crew change and they want people to shut up,” said another seafarer from Maharashtra.

“Nothing is going to happen unless you have everything ready and all the companies involved in the crew change work together and coordinate,” he said.

Nobody can go just like that, nobody will take their own ticket and go, it should be through the company who has hired the seafarer. The company bears all the expenses, he stated.

A typical crew change, for instance, in Singapore or USA or UK, require the seafarer to travel to that country, after undergoing the mandatory merchant navy medical test in India.

If there is no VISA on arrival facility, the company arranges an agent to receive the seafarer on arrival.

“Somebody has to be there in the destination country to accompany the seafarers and to complete all the formalities. For this, the company has to make the arrangements. And, they have to plan it in such a way that the vessel is there in the port. If not, they will have to provide for the accommodation. But in this situation, nobody wants to get you an accommodation in the destination country. Staying outside is riskier,” adds Dhyan.

I should have the ship in place, I should have both the companies, my agent everybody should be in line. Then I can fly from here. If not, if one guy is missing from there, I will be stuck, adds Dhyan.

Published on May 10, 2020

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