Expired certificates deny Indian seafarers job prospects

P Manoj MUMBAI/MAY 28 | Updated on May 28, 2020

The Budget move may make seafaring a less attractive profession for Indians iStockphoto powerofforever

Certificate renewals hit by closure of training institutes

Indian seafarers awaiting their next assignment on ships when crew change resume fully will face another hurdle to their job prospects - expired certificates – as maritime training institutes that facilitate certificate renewals are shut till further notice, in the wake of the pandemic.

Following calls to fix the issue, the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) has sought to resolve the matter, but seafarers say it will not meet the requirements.

In a May 21 order, the DGS extended the validity of seafarers’ certificates that are expiring between March 01 and December 31 by six months from the expiry date printed/typed on the relevant certificate (Certificate of Competency/Proficiency/ Equivalence), irrespective of whether the seafarer is/was on ship at the time of expiry or not.

Hiring issue

Most shipping companies offer a six-month contract on board, but a hiring rule followed globally make the extension unworkable.

“My certificates are expiring in July. After the extension granted by DGS, my certificate will be valid till February 2021.But, companies will put me on a ship if my certificates expire at least three months beyond the contract period. So, if they don’t put me on a ship in June, I will not be able to join and will have to wait till the training institutes open to revalidate and renew my certificates,” said a Mumbai-based seafarer, who signed off from his last assignment on board a ship in July 2019.

The six-months extension of certificate validity will also not help seafarers whose certificates expired before March, but could not be renewed due to the lockdown and the closure of training institutes.

These seafarers will have to sit at home, wait for training institutes to re-open and then apply for renewal/revalidation.

Because of this, many seafarers will be unemployed due to expired certificates.

Extending validity is not a feasible option for those on shore. “What we need is delivery of processed certificates,” he said.

Need for revalidation

A seafarer has to undergo a refresher course every five years to renew or revalidate his certificates, according to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).

“So, every year, a seafarer has to do some course to keep his certificates valid. If my company had planned and placed me by January, I would have completed my contract by now. Why would a seafarer renew his certificates if they are valid for another year and bear additional cost,” he said.

Seafarers who are stuck without these important documents are facing a hard time, said another seafarer who has been getting calls from his company to join a ship.

Given the situation, seafarers have urged DGS to conduct on-line revalidation of STCW certificates and renew/revalidate the documents so that they can join when companies call them on their next contract.

Published on May 28, 2020

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