Port Blair, June 20: The National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) has alleged violations of the approval of Hon’ble Lt. Governor and Rules & Regulations under law by the Crew Cell of the Directorate of Shipping Services, A&N Administration. 

In a letter to the Chief Secretary (Chief Vigilance Officer), A&N Administration, the NUSI Branch Representative, Dharvinder Ram explained that the Crew Cell under the Directorate of Shipping Services is dealing with employment of Seafarers. The Seafarers are engaged from Permanent Company Roster and in case of shortage the same are filled by Contract Crew. The seniority wise employment from Permanent Company Roster and Contract Roster has been the key arrangement to ensure there is no favouritism, transparency and equal rights of employment are restored.

Since the pandemic started NUSI has been observing various irregularities in employment and seniority in roster. Initially the major amendment was made in closing the Roster Register, which displays the seniority wise list for employment and Call Notice that brings transparency in employment.

There have been several occasions when the matter has been reported verbally and written communication. Despite this no action had been initiated which has encouraged exploitation and corruption in Crew Cell.

The points raised by NUSI included

Right of employment of Mainland Island Sector Seafarers granted to Contract Crew:

Policy for decommission of vessel MV Nancowry was approved by Hon’ble Lieutenant Governor. The matter of flooding of Permanent Roster Seafarers of Mainland Island Sector Roster was pointed out. Upon the proposal of Directorate of Shipping Services, it was approved by Hon’ble Lieutenant Governor, that the surplus Seafarers of Mainland Island Sector Roster shall be placed onboard vessels of Inter Island Sector with wage protection. This arrangement shall completely curb the issue of flooding, employment of Mainland Island Sector Seafarers will be smooth, the Directorate of Shipping Services shall reduce the additional financial burden of paying Retainer Allowance to on shore Seafarers.

Despite such approval on record, the Crew Cell has engaged Contract Crew on onboard all vessels of Inter Island Sector rather than placing Mainland Island Sector Seafarers. Onboard newly inducted vessel MV Sindhu, only one Roster Crew from Inter Island Sector has been placed and all remaining requirements have been fulfilled by Contract Crew whereas there are several Seafarers of Mainland Island Sector onshore.

The Crew cell is of the opinion to place onshore Seafarers of Mainland Island Sector onboard vessel MV Swaraj Dweep presently at Kochi Port for dry dock. Crew cell is aware that there is no requirement of excess Seafarers onboard said vessel under repair but in order to place Contract Crew, the Seafarers of Mainland Island Sector are neither employed onboard said vessel being stationed in Mainland nor onboard vessels of Inter Island Sector.

On several occasions the Crew cell was instructed to place Mainland Island Sector Seafarers onboard but Crew Cell ignored all approvals and directions on record.

Irregularities in sign off:

The Seafarers are signed off according to their completion of article tenure except when there is a request for early sign off, medical issues or indiscipline. It has been observed that the Crew cell is signing off Seafarers as per their choice.

Actions leading to additional financial burden and misuse of Govt funds:

The act of Crew cell for not engaging Permanent Company Roster Seafarers but engaging Contract Crew leads to payment of unwanted retained allowance to Permanent Company Roster Seafarers. On one hand the salary to Contract Crew is paid and for the same vacancy, Permanent Company Roster Seafarers are paid retained allowance during onshore period.

Recently the Crew Cell has executed Promotion of Permanent Company Roster Crew. As of date there are hundreds of vacancies in various categories onboard. The benefit of promotion and higher wages are enjoyed on Log Promotion by senior crew. Permanently Promoting of Crew shall lead to increase in onshore period of Crew thereby resulting in payment of Retainer Allowance to all categories of crew. NUSI understands that while the Crew are enjoying benefits of seniority on Log Promotion from past decades, there was no need to render Promotion on Permanent basis.

Based on the earlier complaint from NUSI, the Deputy Superintendent, Anti-Corruption Unit and Assistant Secretary (Vigilance) had directed Directorate of Shipping Services to conduct enquiry upon the complaint as per CCS Conduct rules. Till date no enquiry has been conducted, alleged NUSI.

Such an act has been a major source of encouragement to the Crew Cell to continue their malicious activity that smells of corruption. Sighting the above allegations, NUSI has requested an immediate enquiry through independent enquiring agencies and not by the Directorate of Shipping Services. It has also demanded that the Crew cell staffs should be immediately removed from Crew cell until the facts are established. This is to ensure safety of Govt. records and any tampering of Govt files.