By Nasir Mahmood
“The number of Indian seafarers employed on Indian and foreign-flagged ships have crossed 150,000 for the first time. 37,259 of them were getting jobs in the last three years alone. (Facts by DGS India) ‘Pakistan’ where do you stand now? @AliHZaidiPTI”
The above question was raised to inquire the Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Zaidi’s performance through twitter trending hash tags under the heading #Incompetent_Maritime_Ministry, last night by Pakistani seafarers. It was topping the list by more than 35,000 tweets.
The protests from Pakistani Seafarers regarding problems being faced by them through the hands of corrupt Maritime Ministry officials are not new. They are educated, well trained by Pakistan Marine Academy spending lakhs of rupees and many years labor but remain jobless. This is just because of the wrong policies and unfair means adopted by non-technical and non-professional Babus sitting in government offices of Islamabad and Karachi, informed sources disclosed.
They are facing serious visa problems as most of the time it takes too long in visa approval process so that it’s not possible for a seafarer to join the ship on time. Most of the countries refuse to give visa on Pakistani passport due to which the Multinational Shipping Corporations refuse to recruit Pakistani Seafarers.
As per Shipping Ordinance of Pakistan a Seafarers does not require to follow up the Sign On/Off procedure while joining a foreign flag ship so this formality needs to be dismissed. They are always facing discouragements, malpractices and laziness in Maritime offices.
Seaman Service Book (SSB), Machine Readable Seafarers Identity Documents (SIDs), Medication certificates and other documentations are never issued in a quick time. Shipping office does not provide online Seafarers’ record which may stop the bribe culture.
Non-accommodation of fresher Cadets on our own flag ships is another hurdle. If we accommodate fresher cadets on our own vessels the junction of unemployment of fresh seafarers can be tackled. PNSC must deploy the seafarers on their chartered vessels as they are the contenders in all export import according to new policy. They should give stipend to fresher Seamen until the joining of ship as they have a specific education and are able to get inland jobs on the basis of their degrees.
Govt. should invest in buying new ships as it is beneficial for country’s economical condition as well as it reduces job crisis of Maritime Sector. She should approach to the friendly countries for hiring Pakistani crew. She must have talked to friendly countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Iran, Turkey and others to prefer the hiring of Pakistani crew in their shipping corporations.
Private sector should be invited to invest in shipping sector and allow registrations for Multinational Shipping Corporations to carry Pakistani flag. There must be reforms introduced in Seafarers’ Examination system. Govt. should take steps in this regard to modernise examination systems for Seafarers so that we do not need to go abroad to clear professional exams and save the precious foreign exchange.
Govt. should take strict action against agent mafia in Manning Sector of shipping as they are involved in serious frauds by taking huge amounts of money from Seafarers for recruiting purposes.
While talking to this scribe a senior analyst from maritime sector stated that Ministry of Maritime Affairs (MoMA) officials include; Secretary MoMA, DG Ports and Shipping, and the Shipping Master etc. They are all non-technical and solely unaware of the basic needs of seafaring sector. The Govt. should get rid of them all if she is interested to earn precious foreign exchange through efficient Seafarers sector.
In other case, he warned that Pakistan may face serious threat of removal from IMO (International Maritime Organization) white list countries if MoMA failed to clear IMO audit. The audit is going to be held in March 2020. Our policy and procedures concerning seafarers training, clearance and employment are out of pace with rest of the world and our Babus are not having any capacity to successfully deal with it, he added.