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IN THE MEDIA


http://expressbuzz.com/States/Kerala/shipping-ministry-faces-sailing-community%E2%80%99s-ire/161766.html

Shipping Ministry faces sailing community’s ire

Anil S
First Published : 02 Apr 2010 02:50:00 AM IST

KOCHI: With the recent attack on Indian dhow boats by Somali pirates, officials of the Shipping Ministry have come under fire from the sailing community for lack of commitment.

The sailors allege that though the Shipping Ministry officials remain loudmouthed, bigger issues related to piracy and ship disasters go unnoticed.

Under the guidelines set by the ministry, it is mandatory to have proper insurance coverage for sailors, so that their relatives get proper compensation.

However, many companies do not follow the guidelines.

The case of Lalitha Sreevasthava of Hyderabad is an example of laxity on the part of the officials concerned.

Sreevasthava Sanjay Kumar, third engineer of the vessel Nardos, went missing on August 27, 2007. Sreevasthava was recruited by Columbus Ship Management Pvt Ltd, Mumbai. In a letter sent to Shipping Secretary K Mohandas and DG Shipping Lakshmi Venkitachalam on Thursday, Lalitha said it was only five days after her husband went missing that she was informed about it.

“There was a deliberate attempt to cover up the matter and some grave foul-play was involved in the entire episode,” the letter stated.

Lalitha said that after the incident, the vessel’s owner Suntech Corporation had not been cooperating. In another incident, the office of the DG Shipping sent a letter to KNK Ship Management, Mumbai, on the basis of a mail from Delhi-based Asha Yadav, wife of Rajender Yadav who was Second Officer of M V Yasemin S. Rajender had died on March 1, 2005, while employed on the ship through KNK Ship Management.

The letter stated that, following Rajender’s death, no compensation was given to his kin. Yet another example is that of Sivalingam, chief engineer of the Panama-registered ship M V Diana, which sank on August 10, 2006.

Noah Marines, the shipping firm which owns M V Diana, informed Sivalingam’s wife that Sivalingam had died at sea. His wife has been running from pillar to post, but in vain.

The cases of sailors of many other ships, including Kairali, Jupiter 6 and Mariam IV, are not different.

The vessel Jupiter 6 reportedly sank off the Namibian coast on August 8, 2005. The families of the crew approached many politicians, but to no avail. The DG Shipping’s guidelines stipulate that the owner of the ship should inform the family of the missing sailor within 72 hours of the incident.

“Sometimes shipping agents and companies try not to provide compensation to the victims. The officials do not take any step to ensure that the mandatory compensation is given to the relatives,” V Manoj Joy, coordinator of the Sailors Helpline in Chennai (www.sailorshelpline.org), said.

Meanwhile, sources in the DG Shipping in Mumbai said that they were completely in the dark about the current status of the dhow boats captured by the Somali pirates.

“The office of the DG Shipping is not directly involved in the negotiations.

The MEA, the Home Ministry and various security agencies are involved in the process,” they said.


http://www.daijiworld.com/news/news_disp.asp?n_id=74636&n_tit=Mangalore%3A+Detained+Capt+Glen+Patrick+Aroza+Absolved+of+Charges

Mangalore: Detained Capt Glen Patrick Aroza Absolved of Charges

Daijiworld Media Network – Mangalore (SP)

Mangalore, Mar 27: It is learnt that Captain Glen Patrick Aroza from the city, who was in charge of the Japanese cargo carrier, M T Tosa, and is under detention in Taiwan since about a year, on a complaint that a local fishing trawler had sunk, and two of its fishermen had gone missing, after colliding with his ship, has been absolved of all the charges framed against him. The charge of ‘involuntary manslaughter’ had been framed  against him. Reports say that Aroza has been absolved of all the charges by a three-judge bench on Friday March 26.

The ship he had captained, had been intercepted midway, and led by the Taiwanese Coast guard to Hua Lien port in Taiwan on April 18, 2009. The second officer of the ship, who is from Bangladesh, who was on navigation watch at the time, and a  Phillipino seaman on look out duty, have also been detained.

The arguments in favour of Capt Aroza were that as per the international law, the ship crew should have been tried only in Panama, under which flag it was sailing at the time, and not Taiwan, as the ship was in the high seas when it was intercepted. The Captain had given charge of the ship to his second officer, and he came to know of the charges only after the Taiwanese Coast Guard approached him, after about ten hours. Hence, it was wrong on the part of the Taiwanese authorities, to have forcibly guided the ship to a port of that country from the high seas, and charging the Captain of the alleged incidents when he was off duty, it was pointed out.

The argument of the Taiwanese authorities that the crew of the ship failed to render assistance to the ship in distress and that the captain had failed to train his second officer, were also found to be not valid, as the trawler in question had not sent out any distress signals.

However, as the bench has given ten days’ time for the prosecution to go for an appeal against this verdict, the captain will not be set free immediately, it is gathered. As the verdict is in Chinese, it needs to be translated word by word into English before it can be properly studied. So, the actual contents of the order are yet to be verified and confirmed.

Capt Aroza was not on duty at the time the alleged incident had occurred in the international waters, and the voyage data recorder of the ship had revealed that it had not come into contact with any vessel during its voyage before being intercepted by the Taiwanese Coast Guard. Allegedly, another Japanese crude carrier, Nippon Yusen Kaisha, had come into contact with the said trawler.

Daijiworld spoke to Manoj, national coordinator for Sailors' Helpline, based in Chennai. He said that the verdict exonerating Capt Aroza could be possible because of wholehearted efforts put in by various organizations and associations working for the welfare of sailors, functioning all over the world. Capt Aroza is not allowed to leave Taiwan as at present. While sounding a word of caution that there might be further delays because of legal requirements before securing Aroza’s release, he expressed the hope that the detained captain will be a free man at the end of the ten-day period given for appeal.

All the Mangaloreans and people of the twin-districts of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada are with Aroza family in praying that the Captain will be released from his detention at the earliest, and that the ordeals of the captain and his family members will come to an end soon.

 


Unquiet In Aden
http://www.tehelka.com/story_main40.asp?filename=Bu111008unquiet_inaden.asp

Global oil movement, a major source of employment for Indian seafarers, could soon be in trouble if Somalian pirates are not contained, reports SHANTANU GUHA RAY

FICCI
Troubled waters :Somalian pirates on the deck of a luxury yatch after taking its 30 crew members hostage
Photo: Reuters

TORTUGA IS the Caribbean island that is home to the Pirates of the Caribbean. But if its tryst with 17th century infamy is well known, due in no small part to the eponymous movie trilogy about these buccaneers, the port of Eyl in the Somalian region of Puntland, considered by many as its 21st century counterpart, is rather less known.

Yet, in the last two months, 27 vessels have been attacked and hijacked by Somalian pirates who have taken the crew hostage and demanded huge sums of money as ransom. The incidents have severely impacted the movement of oil tankers and other shipping. “The pirates are currently holding 12 vessels and 240 crew members hostage,” a top Surface Transport Ministry official told TEHELKA.

CEOs of top shipping companies have petitioned Surface Transport Minister TR Baalu to take a serious look at the regular incidents of piracy in these African waters. More worrying was the fact that Defence Minister AK Antony had to express — on the sidelines of a Coast Guard commanders’ conference — his helplessness in rescuing the Indian crew on board a Panama-owned merchant vessel, MV Stolt Valor, hijacked last week off the coast of Somalia.

That both could offer cold comfort is because until last week, New Delhi was dithering over the option of joint patrolling in African waters alongside other navies, despite the fact that the United States, Canada, France and the United Kingdom all carry out patrolling in these waters. “The government is concerned and is consulting with its ministries on finding a solution to rescue the abducted crew,” said Antony. The Supreme Court has already asked the government to get details of the number of ships hijacked and crew members held hostage.

Worse, India has no agreement with Somalia for entering its waters to intercept vessels. The Indian Navy has now agreed to patrol the Gulf of Aden, along with navies from other countries. “India is among the biggest manpower suppliers to world shipping and it is important that seafarers are safe,” Manoj Joy, of the Chennai-based Sailor’s Helpline, told TEHELKA.

Joy points out that many instances of piracy are not even reported — because ransom is quietly paid. “There are well-organised gangs of pirates who negotiate the amount and receive it in a third country. I would say that ransom amounts of $1 million are not uncommon,” he says.

FICCI
Illustration:Naorem Ashish

Two vessels of the Mumbai-based Pelican Marines — with loads of Indians on board are missing. One disappeared off the Somalia coast in 2006 and another this year. Unfortunately, the Directorate General of Shipping could do nothing. The Indian Navy had requested the PMO to grant blanket permission for hot pursuit of pirates on the high seas, a plea that was turned down because a unilateral decision to do this could violate a resolution of the UN Security Council that authorises only countries cooperating with the ‘transitional’ government of Somalia to enter its territorial waters to repress acts of piracy. Part of the problem is the strategic location Somalia occupies on the busiest trade route in Asia: ships using the Suez Canal to travel between Europe and Asia have to pass through the Gulf of Aden. In the first half of 2008, 21,080 vessels used the Suez Canal, which represents nearly a tenth of the world’s sea-borne trade.

THE FACT that the country has been at the mercy of rival warlords for over a decade and a half means that lawlessness is the norm in Somalia. Acts of piracy emanating from its ports and coastal waters have therefore escalated. “We have definite information that the hijackers (of the MV Stolt Valor) have demanded a ransom of around Rs 60 million ($1.5 million),” says the Surface transport Ministry official, adding that the Japanese ship management company in Hong Kong has already appointed a third party negotiator.

Attacks such as this one have led shipping companies to seek military intervention by the UN and to warn that they may start routing vessels around the Horn of Africa, increasing costs and risking rougher seas. “Oil movement could be hampered if this continues. Today, almost every ship going through the Gulf of Aden faces serious piracy problems,” Giles Noakes, head of security for BIMCO, a top shipping association, told TEHELKA.

Maria Vijayan, a Kanyakumari-based Indian sailor held captive by Somalian pirates for 174 days, says most pirates come from the small town of Harardheere, 400 kilometers north of the capital Mogadishu. Eyl is the other epicentre for the attacks. Vijayan was the chief officer of one of the two South Korean ships Mavuno I and Mavuno II that Somali pirates captured off Mogadishu last year. He and his fellow sailors were finally rescued by the US Navy.

Piracy in the Gulf of Aden, says the Indian official, is increasing at a time when the number of pirate attacks across the world is in decline, down to 263 in 2007, from 329 in 2004 and 445 in 2003.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) says increased patrols in the Straits of Malacca by the navies of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore virtually eradicated piracy there: the numbers dwindled to two in the first half of 2008, compared to seven in 2007 and 38 in 2004.

Agrees Noel Choong, head of IMB’s piracy reporting center: “The China Sea crisis has been handled very well, but this one is a tough call because there is no government in Somalia. The country is without an effective central authority since the 1991 ouster of former president Mohamed Siad Barre.”

The number of attacks off Somalia currently stands at 54 this year, from a low of 10 in 2004 with more than 1,500 pirates — mostly former soldiers and farmer — involved in the trade. This is a very dangerous area in the world,” he says. Sailors would agree.


From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 40, Dated Oct 11, 2008

 

The Hijack Dilemma Sandeep Unnithan October 17, 2008
http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/17894/Defence/The+hijack+dilemma.html

For over a month now, Seema Goyal, a harried homemaker from Dehradun has been running from pillar to post in the national capital.
With seven-year-old son Shivansh in tow, she's meeting politicians, ministers and bureaucrats, just about anyone who could expedite the release of her husband Captain Prabhat Kumar Goyal and his 21-member crew aboard the MV Stolt Valor, a Hong Kong-registered chemical tanker that was hijacked in the Red Sea by Somali pirates.

The Indian Government says the matter is between the ship owners and the pirates. "The crew members were there just to earn their daily bread," says the doughty lady.

The families of nearly one lakh Indian merchant navy-men-one of the world's largest seafaring communities-could well ask how safe Indian sailors are, who by their sheer numbers run a high risk of being involved in such incidents.
The seas off anarchic Somalia, which has not had a central government since 1991, have turned into the world's most dangerous waters. Over 60 merchant ships transiting the busy straits of Bab el-Mandeb have been attacked and 30 of them captured by pirates.

The Stolt Valor was the tenth such incident involving Indian crews. Ships are boarded by the latter-day Red Sea sharks, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s, operating speedboats.
Ships are held in anchorage off the pirate haven of Ayl in central Somalia until a ransom is paid by the owners. It's a profitable "business" that shipping analysts estimate as worth $100 million a year.


PiratesPirates with the Faina
From the glass windows of the bridge of the Stolt Valor where Captain Goyal and his frightened crew are held hostage, they can see at least five other hijacked ships, including the Ukranian MV Faina loaded with 33 battle tanks and heavy ordnance.
India, with the world's fifth largest navy having frigates, destroyers, marine commandos, helicopters and giant patrol aircraft like the Tu-142, is the best-equipped in the region to tackle sea scourges like piracy. It also has the best experience in doing so.
In 1988 a naval frigate chased and intercepted a freighter with mercenaries fleeing an aborted coup in the Maldives; five years later, marine commandos stormed the LTTE arms freighter MV Ahat, and in 1999 a naval missile boat and Coast Guard cutters rescued the pirated freighter Alondra Rainbow from Indonesian pirates as it was barrelling through the Arabian Sea.
In stark contrast, the Indian Government's response to the hijacking of the Stolt Valor has been cautionary, even pusillanimous. Minister of State for External Affairs, Anand Sharma, says, "India is being helped by neighbouring powers and international agencies are working with us to free the sailors."
However, two requests by the Indian Navy to undertake joint anti-piracy patrols off Somalia and to authorise the navy chief to be designated as the authority to tackle piracy on the high seas, were shot down by the Ministry of Defence and, reportedly, by the Ministry of External Affairs.

The Government, instead, responds to requests for intervention on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the law, defence and external affairs ministries. "The Government's apathy towards its citizens is appalling," says V. Manoj Joy, coordinator of Sailor's Helpline that helps families of mariners in distress.


AffectedAffected families march
Mariners cite cases like that of French Navy which relentlessly pursued and captured Somali pirates in two recent cases where French nationals were involved.
India is a signatory to several UN resolutions, including the United Nations Conventions on Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), which mandates it to act against piracy. "We are trying our best but the ship is at a Somali port and we have no agreement (to tackle the situation). We can act only as per the law,"

Defence Minister A.K. Antony said last month after the Stolt Valor was hijacked. Naval officials say UN Security Council Resolution 1838, unanimously passed on October 7, authorises "all necessary means", including naval and air force, against Somali pirates.
India is a signatory to the 2006 Indo-US Maritime Security Cooperative Framework where it undertook to conduct joint anti-piracy patrols. Yet, the Indian Government is wary of allowing its blue-water force from participating in joint patrolling.

There are two ways of looking at this malevolence. Piracy could be seen as yet another maritime hazard that merchantmen, who are prohibited from carrying lethal weapons, may have to live with.

There is also how a rising power deals in a region it explicitly mentions as falling in its maritime security domain-from the mouth of the Red Sea to the Malacca Straits and the Persian Gulf to Antarctica. "It is our backyard and we are not prepared to police it," says an officer. Officials suggest preventive-active patrolling-and curative- conducting rescue operations-measures.
"The long-term challenge for India, as indeed for every other major nation, is its ability and willingness to contribute to international peace and stability," Antony said at a recent seminar on power projection. Wise words. But clearly those the Government is not prepared to keep.

India's options

  • Join the multi-national force of countries like the US, Germany, France and Malaysia, who conduct patrols in the Red Sea. Deploy patrol ships, tankers and maritime reconnaissance aircraft in the vicinity.
  • Mount rescue operations to free Indian crew while they are being held hostage off Somalia.
  • Insist on non-lethal security measures for Indian-flagged vessels plying through the Red Sea. These include electrified fences and light and sound-repellents to deter pirates.

The Sailors' Helpline By Archana Sudheer       
http://www.heraldofindia.com/achiever.php?month=09&year=2009      

V. M. JOY'S name has come to be closely connected with seafarers' rights in India. With 18 years of sailing experience, he is an expert on maritime issues. After quitting active sailing, Joy worked with an international maritime law firm for five years, before starting Sailors' Helpline, a civil society organisation dedicated to helping seafarers in distress. In an exclusive interview with The Herald of India, he puts forth his views on his work, difficulties sailors face, and why he toils for their cause.

Question: You were in the Merchant Navy for a long period. Did you find the career conforming to your expectations?

Answer: I sailed for nearly 18 years. The career at sea exceeded my expectations. At a very young age, I got to see the world and draw a handsome salary. However, I realised that it's only when you live isolated at sea and away from your loved ones that you understand the real value of human life. The experience made me a better human being. What I witnessed in poor and war-torn nations like Somalia opened my eyes to the harsh realities of life. When I saw such sadness, I thanked God for blessing me abundantly. I realised I had no right to ask for anything more.

Q. Why did you start Sailors' Helpline?

A: Personal experiences prompted me to start Sailors' Helpline. During my sailing days, I came across several stranded seafarers, including Indian ones. Abandoned by ship owners, several sailors are left in the lurch without food or money. They do not even have money to return home.
I remember my bitter experience while on board a foreign vessel in the late 1990s. During a voyage from an African port to Mumbai, we ran out of food and water. Complaints by the crew were met with threats. We bore the brunt till the vessel docked in Mumbai. There, I saw to it that the ship was detained. After quitting active sailing, I joined an international maritime law firm as their advisor and worked there for more than five years. While at the firm, I got the opportunity to handle cases pertaining to seafarers' issues. The knowledge I gained there helped me assist and advise seafarers on legal issues.

Q. Please tell us how the Helpline helps sailors and their families.

A: The Sailors' Helpline is an assistance facility. The helpline panel consists of senior merchant mariners, lawyers practising in the High Court and the Supreme Court, a Port Chaplain, and seafarers' welfare workers. Most of the cases that come to us are from seafarers sailing on Flag of Convenience (FoC) ships or those operated by fly-by-night operators. A major case I am handling at the moment is that of ship Jupiter 6 that has been missing since August 2004. It had 10 Indians and three Ukrainians on board. Family members of the missing crew requested my assistance in the matter when the Directorate General of Shipping authorities failed to help them. This case has complex legal issues. Jupiter 6 went missing in international waters. The ship was registered in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was manned by an Indian company and is owned by someone else in some other country. The Sailors' Helpline worked aggressively on the case for more than six months. We did extensive research on similar missing ship theories, maritime fraud and criminal conspiracy. We then assisted the family members in moving the Supreme Court. The SC admitted their writ petition and issued a notice to the Central Government. As of now, the case is pending before the court. The Sailors' Helpline also assists accident victims (seafarers) who have been deprived of their rightful compensation. We have also assisted family members of seafarers who have gone missing or have mysteriously died. We offer our services free of charge. Sailors or their families who desire our services can contact us at: 09884140950 or sailorshelpline@yahoo.com.

Q. What is the progress of the Jupiter 6 case?

A: Taking a serious view of the Centre's indifference to trace Jupiter 6, the Supreme Court has directed the government to disclose details of marine casualties involving Indian vessels or crew members since October 2002. A Bench, consisting of Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice L.S. Panta, passed this interim order on a writ petition filed by the family members of the missing crew. The Bench also ordered payment of compensation stating that the pendency of this petition or any further investigation in the matter by any agency should not come in the way of the insurers, owners or managers of the tug paying compensation to the family members. The Bench said, "The grievance and complaint made in this petition is that if the Indian Government and managers of the tug had acted with necessary care and expedition, in all probability, the lives of the crew could have been saved."

Q. You were physically attacked by some hired goondas. Can you tell us how it happened?

A: Most of the fly-by-night ship operators have clandestine backgrounds. Some of them have links in the mafia as well. Ship operation, crew recruitment and management are done by these shady operators. They will go to any extent to safeguard their criminal interests, and, if required, kill persons trying to expose them.
In 2007, a seven-member criminal gang, armed with steel pipes and beer bottles, barged into my residence-cum-office in broad daylight and beat me up. I sustained serious head injuries in the attack. The local police initially refused to visit the scene of crime for reasons best known to them and came to the spot only after some of my friends in the media intervened. It has been two years now and the police have still not apprehended the criminals. Instead, they tried their best to bury the case. Our lawyers have brought this matter to the knowledge of the Supreme Court.

Q. Litigation is very expensive. How do you support yourself?

A: Yes, litigation is very costly and it is not easy for a common man to fight legal battles without money. My five-year stint in an international law firm helped me build a close rapport with several lawyers practising in High Courts and the Supreme Court. Moreover, several like-minded lawyers have come forward to help families of the seafarers and do not take any fees from them.
Many of the seafarers' family members are poor and cannot afford to pay the exorbitant legal fees. Sailors' Helpline, without any corpus fund of its own, has managed to unite people to fight for seafarers' rights. At times, we also spend money from our own pockets. But, that is alright, as it is for a good cause. Organisations or individuals who want to help these families are welcome.

Q. Are you affiliated to any international organisation? How do you coordinate with them?

A: We work in close coordination with various organisations. Depending on the nature of the case, we also correspond with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The IMO and ILO render us advice, and, in some cases, give us details of organisations that could assist us better. We are also in touch with international seafarers' welfare organisations, such as the Apostleship of the Seas, the International Committee on Seafarers Welfare and the Center for Seafarers Rights.
In 2008, when a ship named Rezzak went missing in the Black Seas, we were in touch with Turkish authorities to get first hand information on the search-and-rescue operation. Sadly, the 25 Indian nationals who went missing on that ship have not been traced.

Q. How did you come to know about the Mangalore sailor who is in Taiwan jail?

A: I came to know about Captain Glen Patrick Aroza's detention only when Captain A.K. Bansal, a senior master mariner and international maritime law expert, informed me of this case three weeks ago. Captain Bansal has been assisting Captain Glen's family from the beginning itself. Not many seafarers in India were aware that Capt. Glen is being illegally detained by the Taiwanese government. In order to help, I decided to create awareness among the Indian seafaring community regarding his detention and the agony his wife and children are undergoing. Captain Glen's case was published in detail in WAVES, a seafarers journal published by us. The Herald of India also published a detailed report on the case.

Q. Can you give us an idea of the problems sailors face? Are there any other agencies they can turn to in distress situations?

A: The problem most seafarers face today is 'criminalisation of the seafarer'. The US sketched a very clear path for this, and it appears to have finally found its way to other countries. The imprisonment of several seafarers, including the masters of ill-fated ships like Erika and Prestige in Europe, the master and crew of the Tasman Spirit in Pakistan and two Indian nationals of ship Hebei Spirit in South Korea, is evidence of such barbarism. Piracy is another threat faced by seafarers. Somali Pirates armed with machine guns and rocket launchers have been attacking innocent and unarmed sailors. They are often held captive for months, and are released only after ransom is paid. In some cases, seafarers have been killed. Other issues are mostly confined to sub-standard or fly-by-night ship operators and pertain to the abandonment of seafarers, non-payment of wages, and non-payment of compensation in the event of accident or death.

Q. Do you think the government is receptive when you take up such cases?

A: Not really. If the government were receptive, the families of crew members of Jupiter 6 would not have sought help from the Supreme Court. The families are forced to move the courts for justice. I know of two seafarers from Kerala who met with a major accident while on board a ship four years ago. They were then mentally harassed by their employer. Finally the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) intervened and directed the government to settle the issue. The seafarers are still awaiting compensation.

Q. Please tell us about your family.

A: My family consists of my wife Bernadette, who is a teacher, our son Cyril who is in Class XII and 12-year-old daughter Christelle Maria. I decided to quit active sailing to devote more time to my family. My presence at home became very essential because of our children's health issues. Cyril has undergone a major open heart surgery and my daughter has mild cerebral palsy and mild mental retardation, for which she is undergoing treatment. When it comes to helping distressed seafarers, my family is very supportive.



Sailors’ families can now dial a friend
Arun Ram
DNA
Friday, September 23, 2005  22:35 IST

http://dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=3136&CatID=2

CHENNAI: 'Whalemen themselves are poor devils'. More than 150 years after Herman Melville penned those words for `Moby Dick', a large number of India's one-lakh odd seafarers remain just that: poor devils. Indian sailors working in foreign vessels have been subjected to discrimination, ill-treatment and, worse, denial of compensation for accidents and death. A Chennai-based helpline operated by a former seafarer now offers a glimmer of hope.

V. Manoj Joy, who crisscrossed the seas for 18 years, took retirement in 2001 at a young age of 37 to help his compatriots in distress. Formally launched last year, his free helpline (sailorshelpline@yahoo.com and tel: 0455345252) receives about five complaints or enquiries every month from families of sailors. He has been successful in taking at least ten cases to its logical end, without going through bureaucratic rigmaroles and long-winding legal corridors.
 
A typical email to Joy reads thus: "My wife has informed me that Ten Ocean Marine has cleared my dues. I am grateful to you. I am out at sea and am likely to be back home soon". The email is from Captain AK Kapoor, who failed to get his arrears after a new company took over the ship he was working in. When he approached the new employer, he was threatened. The helpline helped.
"I get calls and emails from families of sailors who go missing and those who are badly treated by ship owners and agents. I put the families to the right people and use my own network of sailors' organisations and port authorities all over the world to get the grievances addressed. It's a totally unofficial approach", says Joy, who also publishes `Waves', a monthly maritime newsletter.

While the Western and European countries have an effective system of tracking and attending to their sailors' complaints, Indian sailors have been in troubled waters for long. Indian sailors' families have been struggling to get in touch with their dear ones who go incommunicado for long. "We have enough rules and infrastructure to look into the complaints, but the bureaucratic set-up refuses to function beyond the role of a post office, collecting letters and passing it on to another", says Joy.

Joy's decision to struggle for his clan stems from a bitter experience he had in a foreign vessel in the late 1990s. On his journey from an African port to Mumbai, he was denied food and complaints were met with threats. He bore the brunt till the vessel docked in Mumbai and then saw to it that the ship was detained.

 



A friend for the sailors far away from home
Indian Express - Chennai, August 4th 2007