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Witchhunt for seafarers raises Indian ire

Mumbai: The media frenzy around the environmental impact of shipping has led to a trend of finger-pointing that has had a massive impact on Asian countries. As the leading suppliers of seafarers, Asian nationals often feel the brunt of legislation that believes in prosecuting master mariners at the first hint of an environmental incident- a trend likely to worsen the worldwide shortage of trained seafarers.

In fact, there are industry leaders such as Sabyasachi Hajara (pictured), chairman and md of the Shipping Corporation of India and president of INSA, who have likened this persecution of seafarers to a witch-hunt. Addressing a packed room of over 250 delegates at last week's Seatrade and Tradewinds organised India Shipping Summit, Hajara spoke of the problems faced by the burgeoning Indian maritime industry and pointed out that although it only caused 1% of total pollution, shipping is vilified by public opinion.

This is a view echoed by Essar Shipping & Logistics' Captain Virendra Mishra. In an exclusive interview with SeatradeAsia-Online, he said, "Being a Master Mariner I would like to add that those who cause 99% of the pollution and damage to environment go unnoticed whereas Master of Merchant Vessel's are arrested in developed countries on the charges of causing oil pollution."

"When a merchant vessel enters port invariably the Master is looked upon by Port State Control officers as a possible suspect or offender even if there are no reasons to believe that the vessel has caused any pollution," he says adding that this attitude forms the basis of discrimination. "Even without causing any damage to environment a Master expects uncertain rude and uncertain behaviour from authorities who normally go out of their way to prove that vessel possibly may have caused some pollution somewhere upon high seas."

It is clear that if the industry is to have any hope of drawing in and retaining the wealth of talent needed to keep pace with booming tonnage, then the respective authorities must curb their urge to presume guilt and maintain a balanced outlook.  [08/11/07]

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