Hope all our seafarers will be released, says G.K. Vasan

In view of the piracy attempts on merchant vessels, the Directorate-General of Shipping will soon issue a notification allowing armed security guards on board Indian merchant vessels. “The process is going on. The draft notification will be issued in 3-4 weeks,” Director-General of Shipping S.B. Agnihotri said here on Saturday. He was addressing a meeting to mark the first year celebrations of the ‘Day of Seafarer'. It will be celebrated on June 25 every year.

Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma said: “A policy for deploying armed security guards on Indian flagged ships is being examined by the government.”

Union Minister for Shipping G.K. Vasan, who was the chief guest, announced welfare initiatives for seafarers. “It is proposed to start a contributory scheme by the SPFO [Seamen's Provident Fund Organisation] so that seafarers are assured of a monthly income.”

Biometric identity cards would be issued to all seafarers. “The Ministry is also thinking of increasing the amount of monthly ex-gratia monetary scheme [for retired seafarers]. We will extend it to all categories,” Mr. Vasan said.

“We are also considering giving income tax exemption to seafarers. It is under consideration with the Finance Ministry.”

The Minister said a grievance redress day would be held every six months in each regional office. “There should be seamen's club in port cities. We will grant land at concessional rates at the ports for such clubs.”

On salvaging cargo ship m.v. Wisdom, stranded on the Juhu beach here, Mr. Vasan said the rescue operations would again be held from July 2 to 4.

Referring to the return of some m.v. Suez crewmembers, who had been taken hostage by Somali pirates, the Minister expressed confidence that the 39 other Indian seafarers, who were still held hostage, would be released soon. “The Government of India is doing discreet work. Piracy is an acute problem. I am sure we will be able to bring back the rest of our seafarers.” The Minister felicitated Sachin Pawase, a crewmember, who returned home on Friday.

Admiral Verma said piracy could be best tackled as a shared security threat and multilateral challenge. The International Maritime Organisation had declared ‘Piracy: Orchestrating the Response' the theme for the World Maritime Day this year.

He said maritime piracy cost the world economy around $ 12 billion each year.

Giving examples of international co-operation to curb piracy in southeast Asia, the Naval chief said several measures were implemented with the support of the littoral states.

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