Thursday, 29 April 2010

The Agony of a small list on the “Ecstasy”

The passengers of the Cruise ship Carnival Ecstasy disembarked at Galveston after a three day old incident that left them shaken when the Captain made an emergency manoeuver to swerve around a buoy that was adrift. The result: the ship listed over or about for a minute.

That was enough. Passengers and equipment went flying; sixty people were later treated for minor injuries by the ship’s medical team, although no one was seriously hurt, according to Carnival’s Jennifer De La Cruz. Some passengers said that the figure of those injured was much higher: passenger Cuqui Trevino said that 500 people needed attention because of lacerations from broken glass. “Several people were bleeding, and a little boy had glass in his head,” Trevino told a Galveston newspaper.

Carnival said later that there was “minor damage to merchandise and unsecured objects” on board, and that the US Coast Guard had been informed of the incident.

The Ecstasy was near Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula with 2,340 passengers and 900 crew when she apparently encountered a partially submerged buoy. The buoy did not show up on the radar, according to a Company statement, resulting in the bridge team having to make an emergency and abrupt alteration of course.

Passenger Dr. Neel Shah was having lunch with his family around 12:55 pm when he says, “The boat actually tilted about 35 to 40 degrees so we could actually see water rising up to the windows of the eighth floor,” Shah said. “As soon as the boat tilted, everyone started screaming, there was glass flying everywhere. People fell on the floor.” Carnival says, however, that the Ecstasy listed a more likely 12 degrees.

The worst incident of this kind was the 2006 Crown Princess list, when around three hundred passengers and crew were injured, some seriously, as that ship listed 24 degrees because of a junior bridge watch keeping officer entering wrong inputs in the vessel’s integrated bridge system.

As can be expected with the Ecstasy incident, there was panic from more than a few amongst the passengers. This is what Patricia Edwards told television reporters at Galveston. “We go to sleep, the next thing we know, [my husband] rolled and hit the floor, I rolled and hit the floor, the whole boat is going to the side. Everything you can hear, everybody's cabin is just falling and crashing to the floor. We get up, and I look out the door and everyone is running back to their rooms to get their life rafts (sic). I mean the whole boat just shifted. Everyone had their life rafts (sic) and that's when they were running with people on stretchers."

Some holidaymakers on the Carnival Ecstasy, Dr. Shah amongst them, say that the crew handled the situation very well, reassuring guests and calming them down after the incident. Carnival, meanwhile, has released a statement apologising to its guests for “the distress and discomfort" that the incident has caused, adding, "The safety, comfort and care of our guests and crew is our top priority."

Iceland’s volcanic ash menace, but Ferry operators laugh all the way to the bank

Commentators are calling it “A pain in the ash”: The gigantic cloud of ash from an Icelandic volcano has disrupted 5000 domestic and international flights to date. This is the biggest flight disruption since the 2001 terrorist attacks; travellers have been stranded across six continents. The ash is especially dangerous for aircraft, as it can be sucked into their engines, cause them to stall and fall out of the sky. Experts say it could take days before international flights can resume normally. The cloud of thick ash has been spreading since the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted in a remote part of Iceland on 14 April.

British, Irish and European ferry operators are not complaining, though, as desperately stranded passengers look to rail and ferry links to cross the English Channel and the Irish Sea. P&O Ferries told Fairplay that demand for its services was “unprecedented” since airports had been closed across the UK and parts of Europe. “It is the busiest day we’ve had, bar none,” spokesperson Brian Rees said. “We can’t book any more foot passengers on our Dover services until Monday.” Rees added that there were so many calls from customers that they were going unanswered, and the company website was “struggling to deal with the additional workload”.

Ferries were particularly busy on cross Channel services. All have reported a huge increase in traffic: Mr. Phil Jones, Chief Executive of Fastnet Line that operates between Swansea and Cork spoke of an "uplift" in bookings. So did Irish Ferries and Stena Line, and P&O announced an extra service between Dover and Calais. Ferries operating to France and the Netherlands were less swamped, although Brittany Ferries saw a huge increase in numbers of travellers at Santander looking to return to the UK from Spain.

Passenger Shipping Association director Bill Gibbon confirmed the massive increase in ferry customer bookings. “Ferry members have reported unprecedented demand for both foot passenger and car bookings in the last 24 hours. Stena Line reported more than a 50% increase in business and a six-fold increase in online activity, whilst SeaFrance has reported a huge surge in bookings with an increase of 100% in foot passengers alone, with car bookings increasing by 120%. P&O Ferries took more than 3,000 foot passengers overnight whilst Irish Ferries have announced an increase in bookings, a 200% increase in calls and a surge in visits to its website. LD Lines has also experienced a 50% increase in bookings for both foot and car passengers”.

Many business travellers and tourists alike have been caught flat footed by the whole of Europe suddenly becoming a ‘no fly zone’. Some celebrities too, Whitney Houston amongst them. The singer and her entourage were forced to take a three-hour ferry ride to Dublin to be in time for a scheduled concert, driving from Birmingham to Dublin via the ferry.

Some experts say that the demand for ferry services may receive a boost long after the cloud has dispersed. "We have never experienced such a travel situation, and ferries are proving they are a reliable and valuable alternative way to travel to and from the continent. This will continue to be the case long after the volcanic ash cloud has gone on its way," says Gibbon.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Iran's blacklisted fleet has changed identity to circumvent sanctions, says Iran Watch

The Washington based Wisconsin Project, a “private, non-profit, non-partisan foundation that operates in Washington, D.C. under the auspices of the University of Wisconsin,” says that the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) fleet of 123 vessels continues to be given new identities in an attempt to circumvent a United States blacklist that is now outdated.

Back in September 2008, The US blacklisted IRISL because it said that the shipping company was carrying military equipment, including material for Iran’s nuclear programme, in contravention of UN sanctions. ‘Iran Watch’, a part of the Wisconsin Project, says that IRISL then began to immediately give their ships new names, new nominal owners and managers, removing the name ‘Iran’ from the ships names and documents. The US blacklist has not kept pace with these changes, says Iran Watch, as a result of which IRISL ships have been successful, thus far, in evading sanctions.

In 2008, the US had frozen IRISL assets and banned all US parties from doing business with the shipping company pursuant to Executive Order 13382. Iran Watch says that the US Treasury Department was responsible for enforcing the blacklist; its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) had published the names and unique IMO numbers of all of IRISL’s 123 vessels at the time. The OFAC had instructed a range of commercial interests, from US banks to charterers, cargo interests, shippers and freight forwarders, not to have anything to do with those vessels.

IRISL then started renaming its ships, says Iran Watch. “Iran Brave,” became “Margrave,” “Iran Dolphin” became “Alameda,” and “Iran Matin” became “Abba,” as just three examples.”In all, at least 80 vessels have been renamed so far; 40 of these had the word “Iran” in their names before the change, and all 40 emerged without it”, says Iran Watch in a report.

What’s more, “IRISL began transferring nominal ownership of the ships to shell companies, mainly in Malta, Germany, and Hong Kong”. Front companies were easy to setup as IRISL already had operations in these locations. “IRISL Malta, for example, now shares its office space in a low-rise apartment building in the city of Sliema with a host of newly formed companies, including Jackman Shipping Company, Newhaven Shipping Company, Lancing Shipping Company, Oxted Shipping Company, and ten others, each of which is now the new registered owner of an IRISL vessel. The same pattern was followed at IRISL’s German branch”, says Iran Watch.

IRISL also floated a new company in Tehran. Called “Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA,” it is now the official ship manager for more than half of the sanctioned vessels. IRISL was managing all their vessels in September 2008; the reasons for the changes are obvious.

Says Iran Watch, "Iran has made more of an effort to circumvent the sanctions imposed on IRISL than the United States has made to enforce them”. It points out that the only detail that cannot be changed, the unique IMO number allotted to each vessel, is a detail that does not appear on many commercial documents. In the absence of the US Treasury Dept. maintaining an updated list with the new names of the ships, owners and managers, therefore, “even honest US companies are finding it difficult to comply with US sanctions,” says Iran Watch.

Thursday, 15 April 2010


Review of tax benefits for Indian Seafarers by National Shipping Board (NSB). The Hindu Business Line reports that one of the industry’s longstanding demands, that seafarers working on Indian ships be granted the same tax benefits as those working abroad, is being revisited by the NSB. This was disclosed at the 113th meeting of the NSB, an organisation setup to advise the Shipping Ministry. Led by Capt P.V.K. Mohan, Chairman, other NSB members include Capt Subhash Kumar, Chairman, Chennai Port Trust, and Capt Harish Khatri, Deputy Director General of Shipping (Tech). Capt. Mohan says that the issue will be taken up again with the Ministries of Shipping and Finance.

Seafarers working on foreign ships have not had to pay any income tax provided they stayed out of the country for 182 days each financial year. This always put them in a comparative advantage over Indian seafarers, who were liable for tax since they sailed on Indian registered tonnage. With alarming figures of officer shortages projected in the future and with seafarers from the country preferring to work on foreign ships partly because of the tax advantage, this is a step that is long overdue, and, if approved, will contribute greatly to the retention of officers for the Indian fleet.

The NSB’s agenda also included a proposal to ban ships more than 25 years old from entering Indian waters, and a plan to have fishing harbours located away from major ports. Vizag’s fishing harbour is the first one in the spotlight, and, if moved, will become a model that can be adopted at other ports. Most fishing harbours in the country are located close to major ports, a fact that is seen as a major security threat in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks.

Was the Shen Neng I Chief Officer asleep when she ran aground on a World Heritage Site? Australian authorities have suggested that the first mate on the Chinese Ship may have been dozing when she ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef, Tradewinds reports. Federal authorities are now interviewing the crew and examining AIS data. The Shen Neng 1 ran aground at full speed in the protected area without a pilot. The incident had the Chinese government apologising to the Australians, who were livid when they found out that the Ship’s Captain had taken a short cut through a prohibited area and was 15 miles away from where he was supposed to be. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that Captain Wang Jichang could face jail if he is found to have breached any laws, and that the ship’s owner (Shenzhen Energy, not COSCO as reported widely earlier) could be fined up to USD 5 million. Salvage experts are concerned that the ship is still working against the reef, and are trying hard to prevent the ship breaking up; they say that the ship has suffered severe damage to some of its tanks and is leaking oil. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most ecologically sensitive areas in the world; the UN declared the area a World Heritage Site in 1981, along with the Galapagos Islands and the pyramids of Egypt.

Paradip Port handles record traffic. Paradip Port Trust (PPT) Chairman K. Raghuramaiah declared last week that the PPT registered a 22.84% growth in the current year, handling a record 57.01 million tons in 2009-10 fiscal. The figures are particularly impressive given the global economic meltdown and the consequent sluggish recovery. “The 57.01 million tons of traffic, handled during 2009-10, is a record surpassing the previous year's record of 46.41 million tons,” the PPT chairman told a press conference. “Paradip Port achieved the highest growth rate amongst all the major ports in handling of traffic during 2009-10. Its position improved to fifth from earlier eighth among major ports in terms of volume of traffic handled,” he added. PPT has generated an operating income of Rs 786.41 crore this year against Rs 696.71 crore in 2008-09. Expenditure stands at Rs 409.17 crore against Rs 358.17 crore last year.

In the next two years, PPT plans to increase capacity to 135 million ton per annum [MTPA] from the current 76 MTPA. A project report for the construction of a new dock system for building six berths has been started. The Rs 2,000 crore project is in addition to plans for the 800 crore construction of an island breakwater with berths on the lee side.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Indian Govt. bans Dhows from operating in piracy hit area

"The linkages between terrorists based in Somalia and transnational organised crime is a cause of major concern globally"

The Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) has issued a Maritime Security advisory calling for mechanised sailing vessels, commonly called dhows, to ‘desist from operating in waters south or west of line joining Salalah and Male’, a directive that is meant to bar dhows from operating on the Somali coast. The move comes a few days after more than half dozen dhows with up to a hundred Indian crew were reportedly seized by pirates off Kismaayo in Southern Somalia.

MS Notice 3 of 2010 refers to the fact that many of these dhows are engaged in illegal trade. “Dhows may be engaged in carrying export-banned commodities, such as charcoal, illegal export of gems, precious metals, ivory, wildlife or wildlife derivatives and fish without license. There are also reports that Dhows may be involved in illegal human trafficking, drug smuggling and arms shipment”, the DGS notes. “These vessels are operating out of Kismaayo port of Somalia. It has to be noted that the Transitional Federal Govt. (TFG) of Somalia has declared that Kismaayo in southern Somalia is not an official port of entry to the country”. Compounding this problem is the fact that the TFG has declared a blockade of Kismaayo port that is held by Islamist rebels belonging to Al Shabaab, an organisation branded as an Al Qaeda affiliate by the US and the UK. Any vessel trading there, the DGS notes, “considerably, endangers the safety of innocent seafarers”. Dhows are easy to hijack. They have poor technical equipment and so it is often not even known that they have been taken. Worse, at around 400 tonnes each, they are often used as mother ships to attack other vessels.

About a hundred Indian sailors may have been taken hostage by Somali pirates last week after up to eight dhows were hijacked in what would be one of their biggest raids yet. This was revealed after a local shipping body in Kutch received a call from the crew of a boat that had escaped; almost all the dhows are from that State; Gujarati traders have been trading with East African and Arabian ports for centuries.

Indian Navy spokesman P.V.S. Satish told the Voice of America that Gujarati ship operators are reluctant to inform authorities that their crews have been hijacked, and that the Navy has “repeatedly warned shipping authorities, with little effect, about the dangers of mechanized dhows venturing into pirate-infested waters”. German environmental group Ecoterra says that Indian dhows export charcoal and other contraband from Somalia to Dubai, and are involved with human trafficking, drug runs and illegal weapons shipments.

The recent Indian Defence Ministry statement, long overdue, highlights the obvious security threats the illicit trade exposes the country to, besides endangering seafarer lives. In an annual report it says, "The linkages between terrorists based in Somalia and transnational organised crime is a cause of major concern globally"

Is it, really?


Thursday, 1 April 2010

Industry Snapshots

International Transport Workers’ Union not opposed any longer to armed military personnel on ships, says spokesman Sam Dawson. He told Fairplay, however, that the ITF continued to be against armed seafarers or private guards, and wanted the Master to remain in command at all times, even if attacked by pirates. The organisation has hitherto been of the view that armed personnel on ships were a no-no; in fact, it has opposed, so far, any arms on board on the grounds that these may raise the level of aggression and violence, besides the matter falling within grey legal areas. At the end of last year, the ITF had said in a policy document that “The unions' and industry's firm position is that seafarers should not be armed, and that there should be no arms onboard, not only because they introduce massive legal and liability issues but also because they can potentially raise the level of violence used by pirates and further endanger seafarers.” A recent statement after a Berlin conference contradicts this view: the ITF now agrees “to support the inclusion, where appropriate, of armed military personnel on ships in addition to the commitment by flag states of naval vessels”, says a statement after the conference. "However, the decision on whether or not to carry armed personnel is the prerogative of the flag state and the owner."

Thuraya set to launch broadband maritime terminal in partnership with Comtech. The telecom giant, founded in 1997 by a consortium of leading national telecommunications operators, announced last week that it is developing a state of the art broadband terminal for the maritime industry in partnership with Comtech. The Cometch terminal will be launched in the last quarter of the year, and will provide high quality voice services as well as a broadband service that reaches a speed of up to 444 kbps. At this speed, ships will be able to access high speed video streaming as well. Compact and cost effective, the Comtech terminal has a specialised antenna that guarantees connectivity even in rough seas. “The Comtech broadband solution has the strengths and features of both Thuraya’s superior and congestion-free satellite network along with Comtech's technology and product know how," says Thuraya's Chief Executive Officer Yousuf Al Sayed, who went on to highlight the practical and user friendly interface of the terminal, including for data transmission, video streaming and personal telephone calls. Added Mr. Dan Wood, President of Comtech Mobile Data Corporation, "The technology used for this new maritime terminal is very advanced and the outcome will be a superior marine grade solution that will develop Thuraya's standing in the maritime sector." Thuraya covers the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Mediterranean, Arabian Sea, North Sea, Baltic Sea, large parts of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and international waters in the Asia Pacific, and claims to cover nearly two thirds of the world population.

Port capacity to touch 1.5 b tonnes by 2011-12, says Shipping Minister, indicating that this will overshoot the 1 billion set target by a considerable margin. Mr. G.K. Vasan was speaking at the CII Logistics Outsourcing Summit. The Government has earmarked, by the end of the Eleventh Five Year plan, about Rs 1,00,000 crore for the development of the Port and Shipping sector under the National Maritime Development Programme (NMDP). A whopping Rs 55,804 crore is to be deployed for the Port sector, with the balance Rs 44,535 crore to be invested in the shipping and the inland waterways sectors. “The focus in the Eleventh Five Year Plan has been capacity augmentation and on developing the ports and related infrastructure to bring them to international standards. It is proposed to enhance the capacity of the 12 major ports from 574.77 million tonnes to one billion tonnes by 2011-12, the end of the Eleventh plan. We propose to increase the total capacity of the approximately 200 non-major ports to 580 million tonnes. Thus, the combined capacity is projected to reach over 1.5 billion tonnes. Most of the capacity augmentation has been planned through the Public-Private Partnership mode,” said the Minister. Not included in the outlay is a plan for road/rail connectivity that cost another Rs 500 crore. The Minister revealed that Indian ports handled about 95 per cent of India's total trade by volume and 70 per cent in terms of value, with the 12 major ports together accounting for as much as 70 per cent of the total volume.


WHY: 160 million dollars of island-yacht elegance.

Calling it a boat may seem blasphemous; it has been designed as a "moving island". Built by WHY, a collaboration between Monaco based yacht manufacturer Wally and the French fashion house Herm├Ęs, it was unveiled at the Abu Dhabi boat show and immediately caught everyone’s attention. Simply put, the WHY design is dedicated to a new lifestyle of living on the sea.

The ‘WHY 58x38’ boat is 58 metres long and 38 metres wide, covers a guest surface area of a whopping 3,900sq metres, weighs 2,400 tonnes, boasts of three huge open decks and cruises at 14 knots. The third floor, all 200sq metres of it, is the master area; five guest bedrooms lie on the second floor, while the common space at the bottom of the ship will have a 25-metre swimming pool, cinema, music room, dining room, and "a perfect 30m beach". When built, it will house up to 16 guests and 20 crew. The price? US $160 million.

“Everyone’s dream is to live on an island, in complete freedom, without constraint, with the independence that only self sufficiency can provide,” says Wally’s head Luca Antivari. "A piece of land with a beautiful villa partly fulfils this aspiration because it is static. A yacht offers the freedom to move, but does not have the space of a property. WHY has it all." Antivari says that the concept is “a new way to live on the sea while caring for it, protecting it and loving it.”

The WHY 58X38 is environmentally friendly. It will generate 500kw of solar energy a day through 900sq metres of photovoltaic panels covering its roof and hull; the design team says that its engines should use half the fuel of a yacht the same size, and will be able to cross the Atlantic four times without refuelling. A central computer on board will manage energy efficiency.

The yacht has a triangular ramform hull; there is no superstructure. It has been tank tested in Gotebourg, Sweden. When anchored, the boat creates an Olympic sized pool behind it, whereas up front there is a seawater pool that follows the curve of the bow. The designers have gone the extra mile to ensure that there is a feeling of open space everywhere; the WHY prides itself on maximum space, durability and cutting-edge technology.

Says artistic director of Hermes Pierre Dumas, “'From the invention of the compass to block capitals, from the rudder to the first steps on the moon, man discovers and pursues his dreams with its feet on the ground and its head in the stars. We hope to open a new path, to offer a new lifestyle that is different, serene, contemplative and respectful of the environment, combining the pleasure of sailing and absolute comfort.”

We are sold. Now where did I leave my wallet?


Pirates close in on the Indian coast- Is the situation out of control?

Possible Al Qaida suicide and missile attacks advisory to merchant shipping in the region in effect.

pic BBC

With last week's hijack of the Maltese registered ‘Frisia’ coming on top of a couple of other unexplained incidents covered in this magazine, there can be little doubt now that Somali pirates/terrorists have moved their operations much closer to India than hitherto imagined: the Frisia was taken approximately 1100 miles from the Somali pirate bases, “much closer to India than Somalia’ as Cdr John Harbour of the EU’s anti piracy naval task force says, pointing out that the Turkish ship hijack marked ‘a major increase in the pirates’ range’. The area where the Frisia was taken is about 400 nm outside the normal EU NAVFOR operation area. Equally worrying is the fact, as reported in the Turkish media, that the 35,000 DWT Frisia is carrying an undisclosed amount of fertiliser. If the shipment is nitrogen based, it can be used to make explosives and IEDs.

"The EU, NATO and combined maritime forces have been taking the fight to the pirates," Cdr. Harbour told the BBC. "We've tried to stop them getting off the beaches; when they've got to the Indian Ocean, we've been very aggressive in targeting the individuals and disrupting pirate activity." The EU says that the 35,000 tonne Frisia, earlier sailing east, has now turned around and is probably heading for a Somali pirate haven. She has 19 Turks and 2 Ukrainians aboard. Meanwhile, NATO has advised vessels navigating in the Indian Ocean to consider keeping east of 60E and South of 10S whenever possible.

In the second hijack on the same day, the Bermuda flagged MV Talca was hijacked off the coast of Oman as she was heading from Egypt to Iran. The Virgin Islands owned 11000 tonne vessel had already cleared the International Recommended Transit Corridor when she was taken. She has a crew of 25, the majority from Sri Lanka, and one each from the Philippines and Syria.

Interestingly, the US DOT MARAD has recently issued a terrorist warning. Posted on the Web site of the Office of Naval Intelligence and dated March 10, it says that Al Qaida ‘remains interested in maritime attacks in the Bab-al-Mandeb Strait, Red Sea, and the Gulf of Aden along the coast of Yemen’, adding that any assault may be similar to the suicide attacks on the USS Cole or the tanker Limburg. (A small to mid-size boat laden with explosives was detonated in both incidents). “Other more sophisticated methods of attack could include missiles or projectiles. Although the time and location of such an attack are unknown, ships in the Red Sea, Bab-al-Mandeb Strait, and the Gulf of Aden along the coast of Yemen are at the greatest risk of becoming targets of such an attack”, the warning says. “Vessels are at greatest risk in areas of restricted manoeuvrability, and while in/near port or at anchor”.

The Indian authorities need to act now, because it appears that the security situation off the country’s Western coastline is deteriorating fast. Clearly, the patrolling navies will have to do more than they are currently doing: their ‘aggression’ often consists of boarding a bunch of pirate craft if at all they find them, throwing pirate weapons overboard or confiscating them, sinking all boats but one in which the pirates are released and allowed to sail happily back home.


“Prisoner in my own country”

March Foreign seafarers have been subject to draconian shore leave regulations in many countries ever since terrorism hit shores worldwide; nations have often summarily and arbitrarily stopped shore leaves for crews with scant regard to their basic human rights or a thought towards the actual usefulness of the high-handed ban when it came to fighting terrorism. Few outside the industry know, however, that Indian seafarers have been subject to similar prejudicial restrictions on shore leave in their own country for quite some time- a truly ridiculous state of affairs. Finally, it appears that at least one mariner has had enough.

Last month, Capt. Vipan Kumar, the Captain of the M.V. Ocean Amethyst in Mumbai P&V anchorage, was forced to jump the hoop every day for the month that his ship was at anchor. Any shore leave for the ship’s crew was restricted to the hours between 8am to 8pm, and only after an elaborate operation: Capt Kumar would have to send details of crew, along with two passport size photographs, to the agents, after which immigration would come to the pier to arrange landing permits valid until 8pm.

Capt. Kumar has now written to the Deputy Director General of Shipping (Seamen’s Welfare), pointing out that Indian crew is being denied their right to shore leave ‘under the garb of an increased (terrorist) threat.’ He has quite rightly said, in the letter, a copy of which has been sent to the MUI, that the authorities should increase security measures rather than resorting to ‘shortcuts and unlawful measures’ to deny ship’s crew basic rights. The letter is courteous, but Capt. Kumar’s angst is palpable; “Here I became a prisoner in my own country,” he says.

Indian seafarers will tell you, accompanied usually by some disgust, that the situation in Mumbai is hardly unusual. Restrictions on shore leave for Indians are commonplace, and passes are issued daily, usually until sunset, or 2100 hrs, at many ports. Given that short port stays, overworked crews and short manned vessels are the norm, a denial of shore leave for a few hours that a crewmember may get off is almost cruel. Most crew cannot step ashore before seven in the evening and after the day’s work is done; with these harsh rules, they may get an hour ashore if they are lucky. Some have complained that they cannot even visit their families or friends in homeports.

This being India, there are other issues with the present system across the country. In some ports it is almost lunchtime before the day’s passes are issued; this curtails a seafarer’s liberty further. Ridiculously, advance clearance for medical or other emergencies is sometimes sought. Some ports restrict travel to within a short distance from the port. Some ask that shore passes be surrendered 24 hours before sailing, an equally nonsensical rule in the era of quick vessel turnarounds. And at least one port is thought not to issue shore passes at all. All this for Indians; foreigners have it much worse.

Given this state of affairs, Capt. Vipan Kumar’s missive is perhaps long overdue; we hope it will result in some equally overdue soul searching in regulatory shipping circles. As a senior Master says, “We were proud to be called the ‘second line of defence’ when we came out to sea. It now appears that we are the second rung of criminals.”