DG Shipping targets seafarers’ recruitment and manning agents

Plans detailed inspections of RPSL to protect seafarers’ interests

After targeting maritime training institutes, faculty and seafarers over quality issues, India’s maritime administration is now looking to rein-in recruitment and manning agents by grading their performance through an external agency.

The directorate General of Shipping (DG Shipping) plans to conduct a comprehensive inspection programme (CIP) annually of the approved Recruitment and Placement of Seafarers License (RPSL) holders by one of the eight ship classification societies authorised by it. These include the Indian Register of Shipping, Lloyd’s Register Group Ltd, Bureau Veritas, American Bureau of Shipping, Nippon Kaiji Kyokai, Korean Register of Shipping. RINA Services S P A and DNV GL A S. Some 412 DG Shipping approved RPSL agents are currently operating in India.

“The aim is to safeguard the interests of seafarers,” a government official briefed on the plan said. “It will also help seafarers to evaluate the credibility of the RPSL agents during the hiring process” he added.

The CIP will look into the manning agreement between the RPSL holders, ship owners and ship managers, non-conformity between Seafarers Employment Agreement (SEA) and the applicable Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

The inspections will judge the quality of the fleet under RPSL by evaluating the ship’s age, area of operation, performance under various memorandum of understanding, record of compliance with the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) and insurance certificates. The CIP will assess the quality of seafarers employed by RPSL by analysing their general qualification, courses completed, wage level and employment to women seafarers.

Such inspections will check evidence for ensuring that the ship owner has the means to protect seafarers from being stranded/abandoned in a port, provisions for their repatriation along with maintenance and emergency medical assistance prior to repatriation and the transportation of the mortal remains of a seafarer in the event of his death.

Besides, the CIP will check whether the RPSL holders are maintaining an up-to-date list of ships owned by the ship owners for whom they supply seafarers and ensure there are reasonable means by which the ships can be contacted during emergency at all times, perseverance of RPSL/ship owners in dealing with death, injury, missing cases of seafarers and grievances of seafarers.

The inspections will also scrutinise the management system put in place by RPSL to check on a monthly basis the welfare of seafarers employed by it including regular payment of salary, up-dation of insurance, regular repatriation, access to family, standard operating procedures to deal with cases of abandonment, non-payment of wages and disputes.

In 2018, the government rolled out e-migrate, a software system that allows only seafarers recruited by Indian shipowners, authorised recruitment and placement agencies and senior officers (master or chief engineer) hired directly by foreign shipowners to pass through the immigration checkpoints in order to curb unlawful hiring of crew.