Mumbai / Bangalore: India’s shipping regulator has temporarily relaxed the staffing, or so-called manning requirements, for bulk carriers from four officers to three in an attempt to help the industry tackle a shortage of officers.
Testing waters: A view of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port. The relaxation in manning requirements will apply to the so-called deck-side of Indian registered bulk carriers and not to the engineering side. Photo: Ashesh Shah/ Mint
The country has around 1,000 officers less than it needs, according to industry estimates.
The new rules will be tried out for six months.
The move by the Directorate General of Shipping, or DGS, will apply to the so-called deck-side (or management function) of Indian registered bulk carriers, with a cargo carrying capacity of less than 30,000 tonnes. Under the new manning requirements, such ships will now have one master, one chief officer and a second officer. The requirement for a third officer has been dispensed with. On the engineering side, the existing manning requirements of four will continue.
Bulk carriers are ships that carry commodities such as iron ore, coal, steel and grains.
Apart from helping them tackle a shortage of officers, the move will also help shipping companies save around $5,000 (Rs2.1 lakh) a month in terms of the salary paid to an officer.
And because shipping firms that operate more than one ship need to keep a certain number of reserve officers on their rolls (this number, too, comes down proportionately), they can look forward to more savings.
For instance, the state-run Shipping Corp. of India Ltd, or SCI, which owns 20 bulk carriers, will now save on 34 positions, including those of reserve officers.
“More than the savings, this will lead to reduction in demand for officers. People were just not available in the market,” said Kailash Gupta, director in charge of personnel and administration at SCI.
India has more than 70 dry bulk carriers owned by SCI, Great Eastern Shipping Co. Ltd, Essar Shipping Ltd, Mercator Lines Ltd, Apeejay Surrendra Group, Poompuhar Shipping Corp. Ltd, West Asia Maritime Ltd and Five Stars Shipping Co. Pvt. Ltd.
DGS has said the reduction is applicable for both the domestic and international movements of dry bulk carriers. “The rate of accidents and general efficiency of adherence to nautical and safety certification requirements will be studied during this period to decide if the dispensation should be extended or made into a national regulation and revised safe manning documents should be issued, or should be withdrawn,” DGS said in its order.
SCI’s Gupta claimed there had been several instances of ships being held up because they were not able to meet the manning requirements prescribed by the maritime regulator, resulting in significant losses to shipping lines.
Local shipowners had asked the regulator to reduce the manning requirements for bulk carriers.
“We are happy that the longstanding demand put forth by the Indian shipowners to DGS have been finally accepted. In times when Indian ship owners are already facing a tremendous shortage of manpower, this is a welcome step,” said Great Eastern Shipping’s official spokesperson. The country’s largest private shipping company, Great Eastern Shipping, has eight bulk carriers, with a cargo carrying capacity below 30,000 tonnes .
According to a study by Baltic and International Maritime Council and the International Shipping Federation, globally, the shortage of ship officers is likely to touch 27,000 by 2015, up from the current number of 10,000.