In the last few months, about 400 seafarers have been rescued from pirates and the Centre is taking steps to secure the release of another 50 seamen, said Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan on Sunday.
Steps were being taken to rescue these 50 Indian sailors, but details could not be divulged due to security reasons, Mr. Vasan told reporters here. He said maritime piracy was the biggest threat to international shipping in recent years and India was also affected badly. Somali pirates had attacked and captured over 400 Indian seamen. The Shipping Ministry in association with External Affairs Ministry and Indian Navy had so far secured over 400 sailors who were held captive by Somali pirates. Recently, the Ministry issued detailed guidelines for engaging private armed security guards on merchant ships. Mentioning that they have mooted the idea of setting up a united force under the UN for international patrolling to defend maritime piracy attacks, he said, “Indian Navy is in the forefront in tackling piracy. It has foiled many piracy attempts and captured 120 pirates. India has been highlighting piracy issue in various international fora, including the United Nations and the International Maritime Organisation, and has been a votary of a UN-led anti-piracy naval task force in the region.”
Earlier, unveiling the statues depicting seamen and a sailor's family at the Seafarers' Club in Chennai, Mr. Vasan said a contributory annuity scheme for seamen was proposed so that they would get a monthly payment throughout their lifetime. It would cost the exchequer approximately Rs.400 crore from 2011 to 2020.
“Besides, there is a persistent demand from sailors for an increase in monthly ex gratia monetary assistance from Rs.200 to Rs.500. The amount is paid to seamen registered for the foreign-going sector on superannuation. The Director-General (Shipping) has been asked to revamp the scheme so that monetary assistance would cover all categories of seafarers,” he said. According to the Minister, Seafarers' clubs in major ports would be upgraded and new ones would be opened in Mangalore, Paradip and Tuticorin. Seafarers' Grievances Day would be observed in the month of July in the offices of Mercantile Maritime Department on rotation basis. A proposal for extending tax benefit to sailors working in foreign ships was also on the anvil.