Conceding that the present Seafarers Provident Fund Act, 1966 is having limitations, the Deputy Director General of Shipping, Ashish Sinha has said the Seafarers Provident Fund Organisation has set in motion an exercise to review the Seafarers Provident Fund Act, 1966 by bringing a draft Bill to amend the Act to incorporate schemes such as pension, provident fund, gratuity to all seafarers.
The Dy DG Shipping has further pointed out that the seafarers working on Indian and Foreign going vessels continuously for 183 days or more during the financial year as per his/her CDC or passport are already being considered as Non-Resident Indian (NRI) under the Income Tax Act, 1961. He, however, said that seafarers working in Indian waters are not exempted, saying the matter of exempting all the Indian seafarers working in Indian waters from Income Tax does not pertain to the Directorate General of Shipping, Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Government of lndia, but falls in the domain of Ministry of Finance, Government of lndia.
Sinha was replying to a letter by TMC Rajya Sabha MP, Luizinho Faleiro wherein the MP had submitted a charter of demands presented to him by the Goan seafarers on a host of issues, pension or monetary assistance to all the retiring and retired Indian seafarers.
On pension benefits, Sinha said as per the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 as amended, the social security measures are to be taken care of and benefits are to be provided to all seafarers. “India has ratified the Convention and promulgated Merchant Shipping Rules viz. Merchant Shipping (Maritime Labour) Rules, 2016, and Merchant Shipping (R&PS) Rules, 2016, to enforce the provisions under the said Convention,” he said.
He added: Since the present Seafarers Provident Fund Act, 1966 is having limitations, the amendments in the Act incorporating the schemes, viz. pension, PF, gratuity to all seafarers has to be made. In view of the above, an exercise of review of Seafarers Provident Fund Act, 1966 and of Draft Bill for amendment of the said Act is being undertaken by the Seafarers Provident Fund Organisation.”
On the demand to make medical plan/ benefits for seafarers more transparent, the Dy DG, Shipping said the medical scheme/ benefits to seafarers is well written in the seafarer’s employment contract. “Before signing a seafarer’s employment contract, the seaman should read the terms and conditions of his employment thoroughly. If there are any doubts in his mind, he himself can request the company to clear them before signing the agreement,” he added.