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Government to amend law for mandating foreign ship owners pay provident fund to Indian seafarers

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MUMBAI : Foreign ship owners will have to pay provident fund, gratuity and pension to the Indian crew they hire to run their ships, per a proposal mooted by the Directorate General of Shipping to amend the law relating to provident fund for seafarers.

Provident funds for Indian seafarers working on Indian flag ships are governed by a separate law named Seamen’s Provident Fund Act, 1966.

The proposed amendment is also aimed at introducing gratuity and annuity (pension) schemes for seafarers in addition to the provident fund, a government official briefed on the plan said.

“These are small amendments, but it will have a major impact on Indian seafarers,” the official said, adding that the proposed amendments are in line with the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO0 in 2006).

The Maritime Labour Convention sets out seafarers’ rights at work, including employment terms, health and safety, living and working conditions, access to medical care and social security. It entered into force in August 2013.

“The existing law on seamen’s provident fund is applicable only to seafarers employed on Indian flag ships.

We are trying to implement it for seafarers employed on foreign flag ships also,” he said.

Currently, in the absence of a legal mandate, payment of provident fund by foreign ship owners to India seafarers is “voluntary”.

“Even then, they don’t pay provident fund to everyone; they only pay to ratings (general purpose staff) and that too when it is part of the employment agreement,” the official said.
In 2021, there were 2,05,787 Indian seafarers employed on Indian and foreign flag ships, according to the Directorate General of Shipping. Of this, 1,76,290 Indian seafarers comprising 76,881 officers and 99,409 ratings were employed on foreign flag ships.

The remaining 29,497 Indian seafarers including 12,644 officers and 16,853 ratings were employed on Indian registered ships.

The Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways reckons that “it may not be that easy” to make foreign ship owners pay provident fund and gratuity to their Indian crew but is hopeful of getting it done.

“We will get it done through the recruitment and placement service providers,” the official said.

The Recruitment & Placement of Seafarers License (RPSL) is mandated by the Directorate General of Shipping for authorised recruiters and agents in India.

“Foreign owners have recruitment companies in India; they have their own approved recruitment agents in India. We will implement the law through them,” the official said.

The Directorate General of Shipping, India’s maritime administration, has circulated the draft amendments to stakeholders for comments. This will be followed by inter-ministerial consultations ahead of seeking Cabinet approval for the amendments.

“It will take time, but we have made a start,” the official added. Source: ET Infra

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