New Delhi, June 19 (PTI) Leading maritime bodies on Friday said they have joined hands to transport about 4,000 Indian seafarers till June 30 in chartered flights as a non-profit mission to enable crew change across the globe.
The step they said has been initiated to help Indian seafarers battling tough times amid COVID-19 pandemic.
The bodies coming together for this initiative include Maritime Association of Shipowners Shipmanagers and Agents (MASSA) and Foreign Owners Representatives and Ship Managers Association (FOSMA).
“By June-end, our chartered flights will fly at least 22 times between India and Qatar to enable Indian seafarers come back home and also board their onward connecting flights to join duties aboard cargo vessels at foreign ports,” Capt Shiv Halbe, MASSA CEO told PTI.
Halbe said the organisations had chartered 212-seater IndiGo aircraft to fly between India and Qatar as the airline has already got a well-established ground handling support services at Doha international airport.
“Indian seafarers employed on contract by over 60 prominent ship manning companies will be able to fly at a minimal cost in our chartered flights as tickets are not sold by MASSA and FOSMA at commercial prices since it's a non-profit mission. We usually divide the chartered flight’s cost with the number of passengers and charge the companies accordingly,' Halbe said.
So far, tickets have been offered to Indian ship manning companies at average 25 to 30 per cent lower prices on non-peak season India-Qatar-India return tickets, he said adding, it is a huge advantage offered to Indian seafarers.
MASSA and FOSMA will jointly operate 6 and 16 international chartered flights from Mumbai and New Delhi, respectively by June end.
In July, these associations plan to operate 40 such chartered flights.
The first such flight was arranged on June 3 for 150 Indian seafarers from New Delhi to Qatar.
For the past two months during lockdown in India, the crew-change facility allowed by the shipping ministry at Indian ports and anchorage near the ports enabled around 5,000 Indian seafarer join their duties aboard cargo ships and over 7,000 seafarers were allowed to disembark the cargo vessels at the ports, the bodies had said.
“However, this facility helped Indian seafarers only if their vessels called the ports in India,' they had added.
In their virtual meeting held recently with Union Shipping Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, the senior functionaries of organisations including MASSA and FOSMA had communicated an urgency to facilitate Indian seafarers travel back home, and also enable them board the cargo vessels at foreign ports at the earliest.
Also, plans are afoot to operate such chartered flights from Kochi and Chennai airports to various maritime destinations across the globe, the maritime bodies said.
Earlier, Mandaviya had said the government will chart out a plan for evacuation of seafarers stuck on international waters amid COVID-19 pandemic.
Thousands of Indian seafarers are stuck aboard cruise ships and cargo vessels in far off waters, and maritime bodies have been demanding from the government strategies for bringing them home fearing that delays might result in disruption in supply chain.
In April, various maritime bodies had said that there are about 15,000 seafarers onboard about 500 cargo vessels across the globe, and another 25,000 on cruise ships.
The representatives from ports sector had raised concerns on high port operation cost, port congestion, shortage of labourers, movement of workers and truck drivers, among others, due to the lockdown.
India has 12 major ports -- Deendayal (erstwhile Kandla), Mumbai, JNPT, Mormugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Kamarajar (earlier Ennore), V.O. Chidambaranar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia). PTI NAM NAM ANU ANU