A merchant navy officers union has given a two-week ultimatum to the authorities to solve the issue of denial of shore leave to Indian merchant marine seafarers at many of the country’s ports.
The Maritime Union of India (MUI), which represents Indian officers working on board ships, has threatened to launch protest actions including dharna and hunger strike by seafarers if the issue is not resolved.
The MUI’s stand on denial of shore leave to seafarers is backed by the Maritime Association of Shipowners Shipmanagers and Agents (MASSA) and the Foreign Owners Representatives and Ship Managers Association (FOSMA).
Shore leave is the period during which a seafarer is permitted to take leave from the ship on which he is serving, while it is docked in a port, after an exhaustive voyage from the previous port.
Shore leave is a fundamental right of seafarers worldwide.
Denial of shore leave affects the seafarers’ mindset, health and wellbeing. This may affect their performance and morale and may lead to undesirable incidences on board and at sea. Acute boredom, mental and physical fatigue, are dangerous states of mind and body, which can lead to impairment of concentration, frustration, potentially leading to accidents to self, the ship, cargo and the environment,” the MUI stated.
“They need to go ashore for a few hours, to purchase necessities, meet family and friends, use shore facilities, and to refresh their mindsets. Seafarers are social beings and need to be occasionally in the company of others, especially after long and difficult sea voyages,” the Union said.
“Passengers from cruise vessels are granted shore leave. Further, if passengers travelling by air are permitted to enter the country and go ashore, why are bona fide Indian seafarers serving on merchant ships holding valid Seafarers Identity Document (SID), issued by the Government of India, denied the opportunity of stepping ashore,” they asked. Confining seafarers on board when their ships are in ports would be akin to putting them under house arrest.
“This is a grave issue which needs to be addressed at all possible levels. There is no reason why a logical solution cannot be implemented, within the framework of regulations, including the security aspect,” the MUI added.