KOCHI: Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan on Sunday said the Centre would take appropriate measures to address the issues of thousands of Indian seafarers stranded in vessels across the world after the Covid-19 outbreak. After TNIE reported the seafarers’ plight on Sunday, Muraleedharan held a meeting with the Director-General of Shipping, who informed the minister that more than 20,000 Indian seafarers, including many Keralites, are trapped in the deep sea.
The sailors on board merchant vessels, which continue to traverse the seas with the task of keeping supply chains open, had said that they were finding it hard to get provisions and technical support as countries deny them permission to step on their soil. “The government will take care of the life and health of all citizens, including seafarers. Steps will be taken to sort out the sailors’ problems with regard to food and other amenities.
If they have any issue, they can approach the ministry any time. We’ll make sure that supply chain doesn’t cause any break or delay,” said Muraleedharan. The DG Shipping issued an order that in view of the non-availability of seafarers or sign-off opportunity, his office has allowed the extension of the validity of the certificates of competency, proficiency and endorsement issued to them for one month.
Sailors welcome Central intervention
Thousands of foreign seafarers are also stranded in vessels. The issue has forced many shipping companies to ask mariners to continue working after the expiry of their contracts. It is vital to continue changeovers of crew on vessels to avoid mental and physical fatigue for mariners and to allow them to see their families. Seafarers spend three to nine months on board a vessel before being relieved.
According to Muraleedharan, it is safe for them to stay in the ships at this juncture.The DG Shipping has directed that all Indian seafarers are advised to comply with WHO recommendation and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare advisory. Also, all Indian ships are required to exercise due caution while calling at ports of the regions where infection is reported.
Meenakshi Kumari, second officer of vessel MT Boxer, said the Centre’s intervention is a good progress in the issue. The Chennai-based officer, who has been in the sea for five months, said: “On my ship, almost everyone has completed the contract period. They need to be signed off and repatriated. Getting provisions and providing medical attention to those required and repatriation of those who have completed contracts are the need of the hour.”