Piracy to rise as monsoon ends , says Combined Maritime Task Force 151. The coalition of navies from around the world guarding shipping off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden have warned Masters of an anticipated increase in piracy incidents when the southwest monsoon ends, calling for merchant ships to increase their vigil against the menace. Recent rough weather in the Somali Basin have meant fewer attacks on vessels transiting the area but that is likely to change as the monsoon wanes and the high seas improve. "The prior preparation and vigilance of merchant mariners at all times of day and night is more important now than ever," warned Turkish Rear Adm. Caner Bener who is the commander of the force, adding that CTF 151 is “constantly adapting the way we do our business as the pirates adapt and modify their tactics." Around 30 ships and aircraft from well over a dozen countries are on patrol off the Somali coast. Bener’s statement comes after a Commanders’ meeting was held at sea recently. Echoing his warning, his Deputy, Commander Tim Lowe, says, "In this environment, the importance of merchant mariners as first line defenders against pirates is absolutely vital. The crews of those merchant vessels that have employed evasive manoeuvring and other defensive measures to protect their ships and their cargoes have proven to be more successful at evading attack." CTF151 says that slow ships with low freeboards that do not keep proper lookout are most likely to be attacked.
Shipping Minister discloses statistics in Lok Sabha. The Hon’ble Union Minister of Shipping, Mr. G.K. Vasan, told the lower house that about 1,00,000 Indian seafarers, of whom about 30,000 are working on Indian ships, are in the profession today. About 8,000 to 10,000 fresh seafarers join the profession every year, two thirds of who join foreign flagships because of better wages, a better taxation regime, shorter contract periods and continuity after being sponsored by foreign companies. Mr. Vasan’s written statement was in reply to a question raised in the Lok Sabha.
Indian fleet growth to remain under pressure this year, say analysts, with access to funds being a major drawback. Experts believe that the Union Budget has dampened industry spirits given that the tax sops and an easing of credit that was expected did not materialise. Industry sources say that although companies like Essar Shipping are trying to raise capital to buy ships as asset prices are low, the overall market sentiment remains bleak. The pre budget proposals sent to the Finance Ministry of a Rs 10,000 crore corpus for fleet expansion in the country are forgotten and funds remain scarce. Alarmingly, almost forty percent of the 9 million GRT ageing Indian fleet needs to be replaced in the next few years, but the raising of debt remains a big issue. As a result, for example, Varun Shipping is reportedly looking for second hand ships instead of the aggressive shopping list it had earlier and SCI needs almost $2.5 billion to fund its planned purchase of about thirty ships. Meanwhile, recent financial results declared by many companies have been disappointing.
Economic Offences Wing (EOW) arrests head of Maritime Training Institute for defrauding 70 students of Rs 7 crore. Police say Manoj Dubey was running a bogus company, Searock Institute of Education Research and Development Private Limited, in Andheri, Mumbai. Students claim the institute said it had 500 ships and promised them jobs, charging them Rs. 4 lacs each for a two year officer training programme. Instead, says Mayur Patel, one student, they were made to attend language courses. Additionally, "in February 2007, we were sent for a camp to Karjat where we were given vada pav for food. When I inquired with the Indian Maritime Board and the director general of Shipping Office, I learnt that the institute was not approved by them," he said. Another student told reporters, "When we went to the institute's office for a refund, their staff threatened us. Later we found out Dubey had stopped visiting his office." Police say they are looking for Dubey’s two brothers who may be party to the swindle.
Abandon crew! Once again, writes David Osler for Lloyds List, “Crew abandonments are becoming commonplace.” ITF officials confirm this with statistics that show that the global economic slump has resulted in an upward spiral of these incidents, “with new cases coming in so thick and fast that up to date figures are difficult to calculate”. In scenes, which may bring back the eighties’ recession for some, abandoning of crews without wages, repatriation or even without food and water are on the rise. In one such case, says Lloyds MIU, owners of the ‘Rioni’ stuck in the Congo have even refused to repatriate the body of a Ukrainian crewmember that died on board. Then we wonder why so few want to join the profession!