Indian seafarers working abroad on Indian/foreign ships told not seek repatriation post completion of contract

P Manoj Mumbai | Updated on March 24, 2020

Representative image   -  The Hindu

They are likely to face serious challenges in international and domestic travel due to Covid-19, says DG Shipping Amitabh Kumar

The Director General of Shipping (DG Shipping) has advised Indian seafarers working overseas either on Indian or foreign ships not to sign off after completing their contract and return to India except in an emergency, citing restrictions imposed by the government on international and domestic travel to check the spread of coronavirus.

“In view of the rapid spread of Covid-19, the process of sign off and repatriation of seafarers has been affected world over due to travel restrictions imposed by various countries,” DG Shipping, Amitabh Kumar, wrote in a March 23 order.

“In India, the operation of international flights has been prohibited. Restriction on domestic travel has also been imposed as a precautionary measure in the country. Under these circumstances it may not be possible for the seafarers who have completed their contract, to travel to India or to move to their destinations within India. It is, therefore, advised that Indian seafarers working either on Indian or foreign ships, not to sign off and be repatriated from their ships except in an utmost emergent situation, as they are likely to face serious challenges in international and domestic travel, till further orders,” Kumar wrote in the order.

India has more than 210,000 seafarers, of which, close to 190,000 are employed on foreign flagged ships.

India’s maritime administration had earlier advised seafarers to “avoid availing shore leave in infected regions and consider the risks involved before desiring to go ashore in other regions”.

“Availing shore leave during the pandemic may need to be avoided and used only in exigencies with necessary precautions,” Kumar wrote in a March 16 order.

The DG Shipping has also decided to suspend all the maritime courses and the training institutes will remain closed until further orders, Kumar said.

The Certificate of Competency (COC)/Certificate of Equivalency (COE) of seafarers, who are currently sailing on board Indian flagged vessels and Indian seafarers sailing on foreign flag ships, whose COC/COE/COP are about to expire, stands extended for a maximum period of one month or till they sign off, whichever is earlier, the DG Shipping said.

Besides, where a crew member has to sign off from a ship due to restrictions at some ports and travel restrictions and the ship owners/operator/manager is unable to repatriate them, exemptions to Safe Manning Documents will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Such a request should be supported by risk assessment from the company.

Published on March 24, 2020

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