PUNE: Seafarers have demanded a greater push for the country’s¬†shipping transport¬†as trade via shipping routes is likely to increase substantially with the ongoing crackdown on¬†Somalian¬†piracy in check. Seafarers’ associations have also sought training facilities in two-tier and three-tier Indian cities to expand the workforce for ships carrying merchandise.
At a recent gathering, members of the city’s shipping fraternity were upbeat about a buoyant global merchant shipping arena and a lull in Somalian piracy.
Sudhir Subhedar,¬†past president of Company¬†of¬†Master Mariners(CMM), said¬†Somalian piracy¬†is on the wane with¬†no Indian ship¬†or seafarer in captivity. The latest data shows that there are 22 foreign ships and 120 foreign seafarers in captivity, Subhedar said. He said about 100 ships pass through the Suez Canal everyday with more than ten ships to and from India.
Subhedar said critical issues about the Indian shipping industry must be looked into. “In developed countries in Europe, shipping contributes to almost 40% of the total transportation. In India, it is a mere 3%. Of the one lakh ships globally, India has only 1,100 ships against¬†China’s13,000. India has 7,000km of coastline with 12 major and 180 minor ports. However, political will to transform the load of transportation from road and rail to the seas is lacking,” he said.
A 3,000-tonne vessel will equal 300 trucks of 10 tonnes each and would save fuel cost and¬†traffic congestion, Subhedar said, adding that an increased number of ships could provide extra vigil along the coasts.
India also lags behind in the number of serving officers and ratings. According to Subhedar, the narrowing gap between living conditions and salaries offshore and onshore for Indian seafarers has affected the numbers. He said the 140-odd training institutes concentrated in big cities must reach out to smaller towns. “We require competent people, not graduates, to serve the seas.”
For its part, Pune-based seafarers’ organizations – Company of Master Mariners of India Pune Chapter, Institute of Marine Engineers Pune branch (IMarE) and Indian Maritime Foundation, Pune – have launched a mentoring cell for seafarers who could become captains or command ships. Senior shipping officers who have made Pune their home are a unique resource for these officers, Subhedar said.