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Indian unions lobby for seafarers' release

Mumbai: Indian seafarers' unions have called on their government to support their campaign against the criminalisation of seafarers and help secure the release of the practice's latest victims, writes Anderimar Shipping News.

The Indian Seafarers' Federation - representing the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF)-affiliated unions, National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) and the Maritime Union of India (MUI) - met with the Indian minister of shipping, GK Vasan, on 28 July. Delegates included NUSI secretary and treasurer, Abdulgani Serang, and NUSI president, Shanti Patel, who were accompanied by Jasprit Chawla and Syam Chetan, the two seafarers who were detained by the Korean government for 18 months before their release in June, and other industry representatives.

Addressing the minister, the group expressed concern over the ongoing criminalisation of Indian seafarers on Indian vessels as well as on ships registered elsewhere. They urged the Indian government to intervene in the cases of captain Glen Aroza and able seaman Sakib Sakharkar.

Capt Aroza, from Mangalore, former master of the  VLCC Tosa, has been held in Taiwan since April this year after being accused of failing to aid a capsized fishing vessel; while, Sakib Sakharkar, from Ratnagiri has been held in Algeria since August 2008 after a stowaway on board the vessel on which he served died.

The ITF says that Mr Vasan promised to look positively into the issues. The Indian Seafarers' Federation has also sought support from the external affairs ministry and the maritime administration.

Earlier this month, the ITF joined the international call on Taiwan to release three crew members from the Tosa, including captain Aroza. Two were released but Aroza remains in detention. Mr Serang said: "The ITF, the Hong Kong Shipowners' Association and other shipping associations nationally and internationally have strongly condemned the wrongful criminalisation of seafarers and have sought justice for the two detained Indian seafarers. That's what we are seeking too."  [31/07/09]

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