‘India faces challenge to equip seafarers’

While India has over the years become the second largest source of seafarers globally, it is faced with the challenge to equip trainee mariners with adequate communication skills and hands-on training in order to stay in the reckoning, Director General of Shipping (DGS) Malini V. Shankar has said.

She said India with some 1.5 lakh active seafarers was second only to the Philippines (nearly 6 lakh seafarers) in supplying shipping manpower. “Indian officers are preferred in the industry because of their skill and talent, but we are losing our command over communication and on the attitude front… We cannot rest on our laurels and the directorate has told maritime training institutes to hire quality language faculty, as seafarers are expected to maintain a certain standard in English communication because they work in a global environment. Perhaps the Filipinos are gaining traction in this area and on account of attitude. Even the Chinese are teaching English in-depth, and better than us,” she told The Hindu on the sidelines of an international seminar on development of offshore shipbuilding, transport and allied sectors organised by the Department of Ship Technology Alumni Society of Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat) here on Friday.

In today’s capitalist market economy, maritime training institutes would have to deliver or perish. “Unless they impart quality training, with hands-on experience to enhance the employability of their trainees, they would not survive. Approval is given only if they have industrial partnership for employment of trainees and the directorate is monitoring if this is happening,” she said.

The shipping directorate, she added, took special measures to bring the islanders of Minicoy and Lakshadweep, who are natural seafarers, to the profession.

Greening of ships

Ms. Shankar said it was time maritime research and development centres focused on greening of ships. There was a need for alternative fuels, solar-hybrids in particular, that are greener, healthier and cleaner, especially for the coastal and inland shipping sectors.

Ship-boat collision

Asked about the recent surge in ship-boat collisions along Kerala coast, she said the coast was close to the densest shipping route, which also witnessed frenetic fishing activity.

Normally, if the fishermen followed the laid down rules like lighting up the vessel, the net and the like, collisions could be avoided.

In the wake of the accidents, the directorate had arrived at a standard protocol, which was then highlighted to the ministry of fisheries and animal husbandry as the issue also involved two States other than Kerala.

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