Dr. Malini Shankar - IAS
Director General of Shipping
Subject : Dereliction of duties / responsibilities and criminal acts of exploitation of seafarers by M/s. Varun Shipping, Mumbai, India and all its subsidiaries including Varun Gas Logistics Private Limited, Varun Global Limited on board the Gas Tankers.
The Maritime Union of India (MUI) is a body constituted under Article 19 of the Constitution of India, which represents the interests of its members (Officers working on ships). The MUI has been carrying out this responsibility to the best of its ability since the year 1939.
MUI, being the sole representative of Officers has abided by the law, directives of the Administration and keeping the interests of seafarers foremost. It is essential that MUI carries out activities in accordance with the law, brings out the circumstances of the prevailing situation affecting its members to the notice of the flag state administrations from time to time.
We are aggrieved and pained to bring it to your kind attention the circumstances through which our members are passing on board the gas tankers owned by M/s. Varun Shipping Limited and all its subsidiaries, (Registered under Merchant Shipping Act), which may even result in loss of life if not attended to by the employers and if not duly resolved by the authorities concerned.
1. M/s. Varun Shipping Limited, is a shipping company, which through various subsidiaries has registered its ships under the Merchant Shipping Act. Any vessel registered under the M.S. Act must comply with the provisions of the applicable law under the Act and the Rules made thereunder. It is therefore essential that the registered owner complies with the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act and specially the Provisions under Part VII of the said Act, which deals with the employment, wages and various conditions including provisions, health, accommodation etc. on board the ship. The said provisions have been further clarified under the Maritime Labour Convention Rules made by Government of India. To our understanding, the compliance of the Act has to be ensured by the owner of the vessel/s which is to be supervised by the authorities. The Act does not have any provision, neither to the owner nor to the administration to pass on the compliance or supervision in any manner whatsoever. Hence, ab-initio we are of the opinion that the owner is directly responsible and it is the Directorate General of Shipping as the authority to ensure compliance of the M.S. Act not withstanding any subsidiary or private contracts made by any entity concerned.
2. It is known to your good self that over 08 Gas Carriers are in various states of negligence for several days and month. The negligence by the owner are with respect to crews wages, living conditions, safety requirements and even stoppage of provisions, water, leading to starvation and maybe result in casualties extending to death. Such dereliction of duty by the owner and even non-monitoring by the Authorities is going unabated. The owners are projecting that as they have entered into a private agreement with a third party manager and hence the third party manager will be responsible for making provisions of above necessities. While the owner may have private arrangement through contracts or outsourcing of the facilities to crew, but as per the strict provisions of Merchant Shipping Act, (an Act of the Parliament), it is the owner and owner only who is directly responsible for compliance of law and cannot pass on such excuses and hide behind the flimsy private contractual methods.
3. The Constitution of India under:
Article 21 : (Right to Freedom) : “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”
Article 22 : (Right to Freedom) : “Protection against arrest and detention in certain cases.”
Article 23 : (Right Against Exploitation): “Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour.”
gives the rights to every citizen, including a Seafarer to practice any profession and for which he shall not be exploited and be deprived of his legitimate claims. The Indian National Ship Owners Association (INSA) on behalf shipping companies, including Varun Shipping Limited and it subsidiaries, as a member has negotiated terms and conditions of employment with the Maritime Union of India under the INSA-MUI Agreement. By such representation of INSA, it implies that all conditions agreed thereto, shall be complied by the members of INSA. Therefore, we are also aggrieved that INSA has not met its moral and legal responsibilities to ensure that its member comply with the agreed terms and are thus a party to such unfortunate incident/s on 08 ships or any future incident that may happen.
4. The 08 number of ships are gas carriers held up at various ports of India and overseas are safe as long as they are being attended to in a proper and safe manner or else they are like floating bombs. With the apathy of the owner, the condition on the ships are worsening and we fear that there may be a situation where any vessel may have an accident causing loss of human life, pollution of marine environment and leading to damaging situation to nearby areas as well. By neglecting and hiding behind third party contracts, the owner is indirectly adding and helping the situation to deteriorate which may lead to catastrophic situation as mentioned above resulting in loss of life. Thus it can be comprehended that the owners inaction/action will lead to mass casualties tantamount to murder or such neglected heinous crime.
we have had the benefit of your pragmatism and have faith on you to resolve the crisis, take care of the interests of the Indian Seafarers, safety of vessel and marine environment. We have neither any intention to appeal/move the civil or criminal courts for filing a Writ Petition under Article 21, 22, 23 of the Constitution of India nor press any criminal charges against the Owner or INSA or any authority by filing the First Information Report (FIR), because we have total faith on your administrative abilities and the provisions the M.S. Act, at this stage.
We await eagerly your direction at the earliest to diffuse the crisis, bring back our seafarers, ship and safety of the marine environment.
Amar Singh Thakur