In the biggest crackdown yet on a maritime training racket, the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) has also served show-cause notices on the institutes that had awarded the certificates.
Faculty not to be spared“We have issued notices to 3,762 seafarers on learning that they had obtained certificates without attending classes,” a government official briefed on the issue said. All the 3,762 notices were issued in a single day on September 28 as some 50 employees in the Mumbai headquarters of the DGS worked round the clock to create files and dispatch the notices.
“We have issued show-cause notices to the institutes and the enquiry process is on. Simultaneously, for the first time in history, we have decided to take action against seafarers as well,” the official said. “We are not even sparing the faculty this time. We are in the process of issuing show-cause notices to the faculty members of the institutes also.”
“Some of these seafarers are employed on ships and the shipping companies are taking action against them. We have also blocked their e-migrate. Now, they are not allowed to fly anywhere on work; they are not allowed to move out of India,” the official added.
In 2018, the government rolled out e-migrate, a software system that allows only seafarers recruited by Indian shipowners, authorised recruitment and placement agencies and senior officers (master or chief engineer) hired directly by foreign shipowners to pass through the immigration checkpoints in order to curb unlawful hiring of crew.
The show-cause notices were issued to check the “genuineness of the certificates and weed out the fake ones”. The racket came to light following complaints from whistleblowers and also through government’s own investigation using the e-governance system. The DGS is currently examining the replies from candidates to whom the notices have been sent.
“In their response, some of the seafarers claimed they had attended classes, but we are asking them to submit evidence so that we can verify it,” the official said.
Union’s response“Something like this needs to be done,” Abdulgani Serang, general secretary-cum-treasurer of the National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI), told BusinessLine. “You cannot get away by just not attending the classes.”
“Show-cause notice is a positive step. We need to verify the authenticity of the certificates as it has implications both nationally and internationally,” he added. “We appreciate the step taken by the DGS, but at the same time, the maritime administration should have got its act together in the initial stages itself with its checks and balances with the institutes, so that it did not come to this stage of epidemic proportions,” Serang said.
Backing the efforts of the DGS to streamline the systems and procedures, Serang said seafarers who had got the certificates fraudulently have to be taken to task. “The institutes are to be equally blamed because they made it easier for the seafarers,” he said.
“The action of DGS has ensured that in the future, the seafarers will not try to get the certificates through some fraudulent means as they have been made aware that the law will take its own course and it will catch up with them some day,” he added.
He, however, said that it was also very difficult for those seafarers who have attended classes genuinely to prove that they have done so in the absence of documentary evidence.
Published on October 20, 2019 in Hindubusinessline.com