The history of the merchant navy in our country is an immensely enthralling saga, right from the days of the first training ship of our country I.M.M.T.S. DUFFERIN, till today, Indian seafarers have reigned the industry with their immense wisdom and flair. There are tough times, and we will be tested, but just like rough seas, it shall pass. We must prove our metal strength to the world and show them we cannot be replaced for cheap labor! Indian Shipping Industry and Indian seafarers are still belligerent and ready to rule the industry.
Indian Seafarers have been in demand ever since our independence from the British; we have keeled over the British mariners and surrogated them. However, the Filipinos, Chinese, and Venezuelans are competing with us and turning over the job market share.
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Ever since the great recession of 2007-2009, followed by a global pandemic in the following decade, the shipping industry has gone through a rough patch. Currently, cadets are flooding the market looking for jobs, and others are facing prolonged waiting periods to board; the only way to tackle this situation is by creating opportunities.
The Government of India is trying to explore the country’s inland waterways where merchant vessels can transport cargoes through the canals, rivers, backwaters, and creeks; this can generate jobs for many seafarers (MAERSK has already begun operations in these waters).
At the same time, seafarers must strive to acquire their command on the subject and compete with the international crowd; when an opportunity strikes, one must pounce for it and show their skills.
Role of M.E.T.I.’s
The training institutes play a vital role in this aspect; they must be responsible and provide the necessary training for cadets instead of looting them in lieu of jobs. They must:
- Reduce the flux intake of cadets with respect to the real-time trends in the industry; there must be a regulatory body appointed from the Directorate General of Shipping to look through this.
- At least provide an on-board internship for cadets so that they can be eligible for their competency exams.
- There must be a thorough revision in the syllabus to inculcate the latest technologies and practical expertise.
The Institutes may not be able to equip all the latest machinery, as it might involve capital woes; instead, they could invest in AR/VR simulation labs that could run software of the machinery virtually, which can be updated for newer technologies in the future as well.
Role of Maritime Personnel
In a global profession like merchant navy, every single seafarer represents his/her country. Therefore, if a person gets into trouble on-board or commits a flaw costing the company, the company recognizes the country he/she hails from and questions the standard of training in that country; they might even have second thoughts before hiring another mariner from there.
Thus, every mariner should bear in mind the responsibility they carry on their shoulders; they are the flag bearers of their country, themselves, and their successors.
Maritime Personnel must also help in educating the trainees, spread awareness, and mold them into responsible mariners.
Role of Shipping Companies for boosting Indian Shipping Industry
Shipping Companies can help boost the shipping sector in numerous ways; some are:
- Establishing or Collaborating with training institutes to mentor the cadets.
- Providing the institutes with training equipment.
- Increasing the intake of trainees as per trends.
- Conducting safety awareness programs for maritime personnel and trainees.
- Encourage candidates to research technological advancements and their applications on-board.
- Reduce flooding of trainees and their waiting periods.
Rules needed to be amended (w.r.t Developed Countries)
Governments of developed countries and statutory bodies must work hand-in-hand to resolve few hitches, some of which are:
The formation of unions must be encouraged by governments and higher maritime bodies so that even seafarers can be heard of their woes and will not be singled out to face the consequences. Furthermore, the governments must help seafarers in distress and bring justice if the companies try to flee away and let the seafarers face the brunt.
Industrial Revolutions can change the way things work altogether; with the intent of Industry 4.0, IMO is looking forward to enhancing shipping towards a safer and environment-friendly trade with autonomous ships. It might help the ship-owners and companies reduce the risk of accidents/ emergencies due to human error and help them save in crew costs, but it will hinder seafarers’ jobs at the same time. Therefore, there must be a gradual and sequential shift to this change, such that it will not affect the mariner’s life; they must be trained sufficiently for the same from the training institutes to embrace the changes.
However, it is true that the industrial revolution opens up opportunities in other sectors when it replaces conventional jobs; it has been the same for previous Industrial Revolutions where laborers were replaced by machine maintenance personnel, and this might be the same for Industry Revolution 4.0 replacing seafarers with shore operators, only time will tell how this works.
Carbon Tax has been in the news lately; IMO, along with representatives of a few companies, have proposed that the ship-owners must pay for carbon emissions of the vessel in addition to the fuel costs so as to help the environment. The decision is not final yet, but this has the potential to hurt ship-owners financially, resulting in a recession of jobs for seamen as ship-owners might look to cutting costs.
Import and Export Boosting
India is a peninsula, having about 7500 km of coastline, which gives us an expedient fortuity to boost the import and export trade. But we are not utilizing the opportunity to its potential. Ports are capital-intensive units and are highly significant in global trade; they generate jobs for locals and at the same time help in boosting the economy, but India has yet to explore this to its advantage.
Ports can also generate employment ashore by enabling local farmers, businessmen and manufacturers to generate income and provide jobs in their factories as the demand rises. Currently, the operating ports in our country are not very technologically advanced to compete with international ports, so there must be instigation from the government on improving it. China and Singapore are real-life examples of how the ports boosted their economy, and our country needs to learn from it.
*Also read- Maritime India Vision 2030