Bangalore: Two Indian sailors of a vessel that spilled oil off South Korea’s coast have been detained in that country despite being acquitted by a court in South Korea, another instance that makes seafaring an unattractive career option for Indians, industry insiders say.
“This incident will not earn brownie points in choosing this as a career,” said Rajesh Tandon, managing director of V Ship India Pvt. Ltd, the Indian unit of Monte Carlo-based V. Ships Group, one of the biggest ship management firms.
India provides 6% of the personnel in the global shipping industry. About 26,900 of them are working as officers on board ships globally, with some 18,000 employed on foreign-registered ships, according to the Indian National Shipowners Association, or Insa. But, the industry is struggling to attract talent because of its demanding nature.
“Extremely demanding job profile with early-stage answerability of higher volume and magnitude, management of high-cost assets, risk of safety, physical and mental stress...are some major problems already facing the profession,” said J.K. Dhar, principal, LBS College of Advanced Maritime Studies and Research.
“We are telling maritime training institutes to hide this incident from young boys looking to take up a career at sea,” said S.S. Kulkarni, secretary general of Insa.
On 23 June, a branch of the Daejeon district court in Seosan, South Korea, found Jasprit Chawla, master of the tanker Hebei Spirit, and chief officer Syam Chetan, as well as the owner of the vessel, Hebei Ocean Shipping Co. Ltd, innocent of all charges of violating the country’s ocean pollution laws. South Korea, however, extended an exit ban on the officers for another year after the government filed an appeal in a higher court.
On 7 December, the Hebei Spirit, a crude oil carrier, was struck while at anchor at the Daesan port by a passing crane-carrying barge, causing punctures to the ship’s hull that spilled some 11,000 tonnes of crude oil.