Bring 2L Indian seafarers under ambit of ”priority workers” for vaccination, say maritime bodies


PTI, Mar 31, 2021, 3:43 PM IST

New Delhi: Not bringing about two lakh Indian seafarers under the ambit of ”priority workers” for vaccination may mar their employability perspective, maritime bodies on Wednesday cautioned seeking urgent intervention from the government.

There are about two lakh Indian seafarers below the age of 45 years who are facing an unprecedented crisis, maritime bodies MASSA and MUI said urging the government to bring them into the fold of ”priority workers” in the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination drive.

The leading ship associations said this is impacting the prospects of Indian seafarers globally as maritime countries like the Philippines, China, Indonesia, Romania, Croatia, Singapore, etc have already included their seafaring citizens in the list of ‘priority workers’ in the ongoing COVID inoculation process.

“Around two lakh Indian seafarers are facing an unprecedented crisis currently as the government has not yet included them in the category of ‘priority workers’ in the ongoing COVID vaccination drive,” MASSA and MUI said.

The Maritime Association of Shipowners Shipmanagers and Agents (MASSA) Chairman Mahendra Bhasin said the current population of Indian seafarers is pegged at 2.5 lakh and this maritime workforce is working aboard thousands of ships worldwide.

“These young seafarers mainly comprise of merchant navy officers, ratings, cruise staffers, etc. They serve cargo and cruise ships sailing outside India for many months at a stretch. It is estimated that not over 50,000 Indian seafarers are of the age 45 and above. Since young Indian seafarers have not been included under the ‘priority list’ in the ongoing inoculation process by the Indian government and hence remain unvaccinated, shipowners worldwide fear they might spread COVID infections onboard the vessels and thus disrupt the global supply chain,” Bhasin said.

He termed the situation as “risky” and “precarious” for the Indian ship manning industry as crew changes have become extremely challenging under the given circumstances.

Not bringing seafarers under the ambit of ”priority workers” for inosculation places Indian seafarers at a distinct disadvantage from an employability perspective, unfortunately, he said.

“With the availability of foreign seafarers having an ‘immunity passport’ globally, there exists a grave fear amongst young Indian seafarers that shipowners worldwide might eventually start employing inoculated foreign seafarers over Indian seafarers aboard the cargo vessels,” Bhasin said.

General Secretary of India’s oldest union of merchant navy officers – Maritime Union of India (MUI), Amar Singh Thakur said, “a delegation of our senior office bearers will meet Union Minister of State for Ports, Shipping and Waterways of India Mansukh Mandaviya next week in New Delhi in this regard.”

Since Mandaviya also heads the Department of Pharmaceuticals, a wing of the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, shipping bodies are extremely hopeful of getting a speedy and positive response for the interest of the Indian seafaring population, he added.

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