Joke of the year by Ministry of Maritime Affairs

By Nasir Mahmood

This is a unique story of PTI government, may be joke of the year where “Pakistan Legal Awareness Trust” lodged a complaint on Prime Minister’s Pakistan Citizen’s Portal against Ministry of Maritime Affairs. According to official record ‘Relief’ was granted and remarks were given by the Focal Person. But in fact till this date nothing was done and no concrete evidence was brought into lime light.

Fasihuz Zaman Abbasi, Trustee of Pakistan Legal Awareness Trust narrating the detail of this joke stated that on May 24, 2019 he received a reply from Secretary Maritime Affairs that:

“Dear Citizen, you are informed that “DG, P&S Wing has intimated that a Committee under the Chairmanship of Capt. Qasim Saeed, Chief Nautical Surveyor, DG, P&S Wing, Karachi comprising of Mr. Masood Ahmed, Shipping Master, Government Shipping Office, Karachi, Capt. Hashim Hussain, Company Security Officer, PNSC, Karachi and Capt. Muhammad Ashraf Zafar, Ex-Deputy Capt. Superintendent, Seamen’s Training Center, Karachi has finalized the gap analysis between the present legislation i.e. Merchant Shipping Ordinance-2001 (MSO) and Maritime Labour convention-2006 (MLC), after examining the matter in various meeting. The final report of Capt. Superintendent, Seafarers Training Center, Karachi has finalized the gap analysis between the present legislation i.e. Merchant Shipping Ordinance-2001 (MSO) and Maritime Labour convention-2006 (MLC), after examining the matter in various meeting. The final report of same shall be furnished very soon by the Committee. As soon as the proposed amendments in Merchant Shipping Ordinance, 2001 are approved, the next step for framing of rules shall be started accordingly. Regards, Focal Person.”

However, even after lapse of more than two months there was no trace of any such report or the Committee. It was disclosed when the Minister of Maritime Affairs invited affected parties to check the progress of the committee on 2ndAugust 2019 at 2:30 pm. The meeting of the Minister with the affected parties and especially unemployed seafarers turned out to be futile and ended without any official direction or order by the Minister.

While talking to this scribe Fasihuz Zaman Abbasi disclosed that Pakistan Legal Awareness Trust wrote a letter to Ministry of Maritime Affairs regarding ratification of Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 and the Ministry wrote us back stating therein that a Committee has been formed for examining and reframing the Article of Agreement in conformity with SEA and MLC, 2006. But till this date no such committee has been formed. We have requested the Minister to kindly look into the matter as the ratification of MLC, 2006 is related with jobs of thousands of Pakistani seafarers.

Earlier, Fasihuz Zaman Abbasi, Trustee of Pakistan Legal Awareness Trust in his letter dated 13th February, 2018 had also informed the Minister Maritime Affairs; Islamabad that in 60s Pakistan was third ranking country in the world in the maritime labour sector. Over the years its rank had reduced and the percentage of employment of Pakistani seamen on foreign ship has decreased to alarming position. Even those foreign flag shipping companies whose majority shares were owned by non-resident Pakistanis are not employing Pakistani seafarers on their ships for various reasons as under:

After the promulgation of Pakistan Merchant Shipping Ordinance, 2001 (MSO, 2001), shipping laws are consolidated and amended relating to merchant shipping. The Merchant Shipping Act, 1923 (Act, 1923) has been repealed by the MSO, 2001. The printed form of Article of Agreement with the crew, for serving on Pakistani ships approved by the Federal Government is non-existent and new Article of Agreement for Pakistani seafarer is to be approved by the Federal Government, incorporating details of the provisions of section 126 of the MSO, 2001 and the ILO Conventions ratified by Pakistan.

“The procedure of signing-on the Article of Agreement under the repealed Act, 1923 being illegal, may create problems for Pakistani seafarers serving on Pakistani ships under Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006) enforced in all the Port States who have ratified MLC, 2006 w.e.f. 2017. It is pertinent to note that MLC, 2006 has been signed and ratified by various countries like; Bangladesh on 6-11-2014, India 9-10-2015, Islamic Republic of Iran on 11-06-2014, Malaysia on 20-08-2013 and Maldives on 7-10-2014. Pakistan has not yet ratified MLC, 2006 for the reason best known to the Ministry of your Excellency.”

He warned that the Port States who ratified MLC, 2006 can inspect Pakistani ships and may detain Pakistani ship for non-implementing MLC, 2006 on Pakistani ships. This will cause heavy loss to the Pakistani exchequer, loss of jobs to Pakistani seafarers and will be a cause of embarrassment for Pakistan. From 2010 when MSO, 2001 was promulgated much change in International maritime law has been made due to constantly changing dynamics of the world.

Each of the Port States has their own Article of Agreement to be signed-on by seafarer employed on foreign flag ships. In terms of section 127 of MSO, 2001 employment of Pakistani seamen on foreign flag ship from any port or place in Pakistan, it is not necessary for a Pakistani seaman to enter into an Agreement in terms of section 125 of MSO, 2001 (‘Not necessary’ means not required).

In terms of clause 10 sub-clause (iii)(a) of Pakistan Merchant Marine Policy, 2001 published in official Gazette of Pakistan in August, 2001, Pakistani mariners who have obtained a job on any non-Pakistani flag vessel shall be required to carry the proof of employment (agreement or a letter) between the Pakistani mariner and the Ship-owner or his Agent in Pakistan, providing the job for fulfilling immigration/ exit requirements. Such Pakistani Seaman shall not be required to sign on Pakistani Article of Agreement, but shall enter the details of assignment with their DG Ports and the representatives of the foreign flag ships may submit the records within seven days of departure

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