India’s maritime regulator, the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) has tightened the manning norms for ships operating on the Indian coast, making it mandatory for them to hire more Indian trainees and crew. The move comes as a response to Indian shipping’s longstanding gripe that many more sea berths are needed for trainees graduating from Indian maritime establishments for them to be able to pursue their careers.
Although it has been mandatory, since 2011, for foreign vessels operating in Indian waters to hire a minimum number of Indian crew, the DGS has shortened the licence period in a ‘shipping development’ circular last week. In that circular, put up on the DGS website, Deputy DG V Rajendran acknowledges the “acute shortage” of on board training slots and says that, with the new rules, foreign ships licenced to operate in India for 30-90 days need to hire Indian crew to the extent of one-third of their complement as per the Safe Manning requirements, or a third of the number of crew deployed, whichever number is higher. If the licence period exceeds 90 days, half the crew should be Indian. The earlier periods for similar licencing were 90 and 180 days respectively.
In a move that should give heart to the scores of cadets who are unable to find sea berths, the DGS directive says that one third of the crew engaged must be trainee cadets, distributed equally, as far as possible, between deck and engineering cadets.
India licences foreign ships to operate in Indian waters only if Indian ships are unavailable, and after approval from the DGS on a case to case basis. For many years, Indian cadets have struggled to find training berths on ships- a requirement for them to complete their training. Indian Ratings graduating from Pre-Sea training have been similarly hard hit. At a time when India wants to increase its global market share of shipping manpower by two percentage points to around 9, the DGS move is a step in the right direction. Enforcement of the new rule will be key, however, many observers say.
“Any step taken for improvement of on-board training slots is good,” MD of V Ships India told the newspaper Livemint. “But the practicality of carrying out such a stipulation has to be discussed with people who are actually doing the job.”
The new rule comes into effect immediately from January 18. “A need has been felt to review the earlier rule keeping in view the acute shortage of on-board training slots and the need to create more opportunities for on-board training,” says the circular. The maritime regulator acknowledges that many countries impose crewing requirements on foreign ships licenced to ply in their coastal waters and it is “only appropriate” that similar crewing requirements are imposed on ships engaged in shipping and related activities in Indian coastal waters.