Bangalore: The Union government has finally allowed the country’s maritime regulator to hire full-time surveyors for inspecting the seaworthiness of ships calling at Indian ports, clearing the way for faster movement of ships from ports.
Under global maritime laws, shipping regulators have to inspect ships calling at a country’s ports for conditions related to the vessel’s safety, crew and cargo. The ships can be allowed to sail only after any deficiencies are rectified.
In India, the Directorate General of Shipping is responsible for implementing this rule, called port state control. So far, the regulator has been hiring surveyors on a temporary basis.
“The decision to recruit surveyors will facilitate quicker inspection and survey of ships so that they can sail out faster,” said Umesh C. Grover, director, technical and offshore services at state-run Shipping Corp. of India Ltd.
Rights of passage: A ship docked at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port, Navi Mumbai. So far, the Directorate General of Shipping has been hiring surveyors on a temporary basiS. (Photo: Ashesh Shah/Mint)
“To that extent, it (more personnel) will expedite the process required under the port state control provisions, which so far took a long time”to complete, Grover said.
An official with the Directorate General of Shipping said: “The administration was facing an acute shortage of technical hands both on the engineering side and the deck side for inspecting and surveying ships. The clearance to hire surveyors will ease the situation quite a lot.”
The official did not want to be named because he is not authorized to speak with the media.
If a ship is held up due to a shortage of surveyors, the ship owner loses money because the vessel cannot be deployed elsewhere for carrying cargo till it is cleared.
“After protracted negotiations, a steering committee in the cabinet secretariat allowed us to create new posts of full-time surveyors at the senior level,” the official at the maritime regulator said.
“It (the government decision) has cleared the recruitment of 18 full-time surveyors in the first tranche. Another 16 is due (later),” he added.
The Union Public Service Commission, which recruits officials for the Central government, will come up with an advertisement in the next few days calling applications for engineers and ship surveyors, he said.
The regulator had to abolish some other positions in order to get the government clearance to create the new posts. “We had to surrender 161 posts of clerks and peons as per the government policy on creating new posts,” the official said.
Any government department seeking to create new posts has to reduce positions elsewhere, to compensate for the extra expenditure.
The problem had been compounded by the low salaries for these senior-level positions. For the post of surveyors, the starting basic salary would be Rs12,000 a month, he said .
“The Directorate General of Shipping was not able to attract surveyors because of the huge salary difference between the government and the private sector. As a result, it didn’t have enough surveyors,” the official said.
In the absence of full-time surveyors, the regulator had to hire ad-hoc surveyors, but this had its pitfalls.
“If something goes wrong, ad-hoc surveyors cannot be held accountable as in the case of full-time surveyors. It was not a happy situation,” he pointed out.