A draft circular taken out by the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) says that foreign-registered ships licenced to operate on the Indian coast will have to ensure that a percentage of their crew is Indian. They will also have to reserve training berths for Indians. The move is in line with rules prevalent in some other countries governing the employment of local seafarers in their coastal trades, and is seen as another step by the DGS towards streamlining regulations pertaining to foreign flagships plying domestically.
“Procedural regime in many countries have imposed crewing requirements on ships doing business in their coastal waters”, notes the DGS. INSA and other Indian maritime bodies had represented to the regulator that Indian rules should be streamlined. This new regulation, if formalised, will obviously boost Indian seafarer employment opportunities.
Foreign ships are licenced to operate along the Indian coast after DGS licencing only when Indian vessels are not available. These new draft rules propose a scaled system that will be conditional to granting that licence to a foreign ship. For example, a foreign ship operating with a licence greater than 180 days will require a minimum of half the crew (as per Safe Manning norms) to be Indian, and one with a licence period exceeding 90 days will have to employ Indians totalling to at least a third of their crew complement. These must be Indian nationals holding certificates issued by India, and the rules will be applied to both officers and ratings.
“Many countries have imposed crewing requirements on ships doing business in their coastal waters. It is only appropriate that similar crewing requirements are also imposed on ships engaged in shipping and related activities in Indian Coastal Waters,” the DGS says.
The circular notes, for compliance with the STCW conventions, that the crew must be certified by the DPA of the company as to their suitability and familiarisation with the ship. Additonally, the ship owner must indemnify the DGS and the Central Government from liability arising out the grant of the dispensation.
The DGS has proposed a tiered system for training requirements as well; this is to be indexed to the Tonnage Tax regime. Regardless, it says that the rules on training and crewing will apply even to those ships not enjoying Tonnage Tax benefits. The regulator says that a ship owner can enter into a mutual agreement with an Indian ship owning company to effectively outsource the training requirement. Whichever way it is done, this initiative in particular is a very welcome step, as thousands of officer and ratings trainees graduate annually in India and often struggle to get training berths thereafter.
The draft circular has been uploaded by the DGS on its website for comment.