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Resumption of Crew change at Vizhinjam hinges on High Court verdict

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THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : The fate of resuming the stalled crew change at the outer anchorage of Vizhinjam Port now hinges on the verdict of the Kerala High Court with the Vizhinjam Steamer Agents Association approaching the court seeking an early direction for resuming the service off the coast of Vizhinjam.They approached the court following an inordinate delay in resuming the service, despite the port recently receiving the ISPS Code (International Code for the Security of Ships and Port Facilities).

Permission withdrawn

The outer anchorage crew change was allowed at Vizhinjam during the time of COVID-19 considering the restrictions imposed by various countries on seafarers. However, soon after the pandemic restrictions were eased by the government, the Centre had withdrawn the permission, despite the crew change proving to be a big advantage for the maritime sector at Vizhinjam, which is very close to the international shipping channels.

While considering the case, the court raised a question as to why the authorities should refuse crew change at the outer anchorage even after the port in question has obtained the ‘ISPS Code’. The material on record before the court also indicated that many other ports in India are still accommodating crew changes at the outer anchorage. The court then posted the case for December 6, stating that an answer in this regard would be made available by the next posting date.

Jude Sajith Dcruz, the petitioner in the case, said “the port here had generated a revenue of more than ₹10 crore by facilitating 735 crew exchanges during the pandemic period.”

“Further, the crew change has boosted the local economy in a big way here during that time with the hospitality sector providing accommodation and transportation for seafarers, apart from providing jobs for steamer agents. We hope there will be a verdict in favour of the industry here on December 6” Mr. Dcruz added.

In July 2022

The Bureau of Immigration (BoI) stopped the outer anchorage crew change at Vizhinjam seaport by July 2022. The Mercantile Marine Department (MMD) that functions under the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, has accorded the ISPS Code in June 2023. With the port getting the certification, the passenger and merchant vessels of international shipping lines, which have been giving a miss to the Vizhinjam port since July 2022, can now call at the port. The shortage of staff at BoI is said to be one of the reasons for the withdrawal of the service.

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