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October 13, 2019

Maritime ministry to minimise physical interaction with seafarers


October 13, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Ministry of Maritime Affairs is building up an online interface to minimise physical interaction of seafarers with the Government Shipping Office, it said on Saturday.

The ministry, in a statement, said the development of an online interface is under process to facilitate seafarers and reduce their physical interaction with the shipping office.

“The application of the step is expected to be launched in November as well,” the ministry said after a meeting presided over by Maritime Minister Ali Haider Zaid.

“Funds have also been allocated to set up a dedicated and upgraded infrastructure at Nadra (National Database Registration Authority) for issuance of machine readable seafarer’s identity document (SID) cards.”

The ministry said the two-step approach adopted was to immediately set up a SID card facility for facilitation of seafarers at Karachi Port Trust with coordination of Nadra. “After this short term action, the long term plan for permanent facilities was devised and hence the launch is underway.”

The ministry said it is pursuing the availability of “OK to Board” facility to Pakistani seafarers for employment on foreign vessels.

The condition of age limit of 60 years has been discontinued to facilitate employment of Pakistani seafarers on foreign vessels, it added.

The maritime ministry requested the ministry of interior to allow an immigration facility to seafarers joining foreign vessels without a no-objection certificate from the Government Shipping Office.

“Sign-on facility is now being provided by government shipping office 24 hours as and when requested by the licensed manning agents,” it said.

“To further facilitate the seafarers, the roster rules are being amended.”

Zaidi said seafarers around the globe are considered to be a major contributor to a country’s economy as they send valuable foreign exchange in the form of remittances.

“Philippine model shows that how the right policy measures could help a small nation of just 100 million to provide 20 percent of the seafarers in the global market and contribute around $5.5 billion to their economy annually,” the statement quoted him as saying.

“Pakistan has a huge potential in this sector and can compete both regional and global players as proper steps are being taken to resolve the issues faced by our seafarers.”

The minister said a complaint mechanism is also in place to learn about problems of seafarers and to address their issues.

“Complaints regarding administrative issues at the government shipping office have been addressed through proactive oversight and strengthening its capacity.

Identification of the problems and treating them as challenges is a strategy that is being adopted which has effectively started to show results.”

In August, the minister held a meeting with the seafarers, including chairmen of all ports, director general ports and shipping, secretary, maritime affairs and all the stakeholders to discuss the issues faced by both the fresh graduates of The Pakistan Marine Academy and those who are already serving in the field.

It was for the first time that such an interaction took place where all the stakeholders participated in recommending the way forward.

The meeting ended with a resolve to hold such a meeting quarterly. The second meeting will be held in November 2019.

“Short term steps to facilitate the seafarers are being taken, but long term steps involving prudent decisions regarding permanent solutions are being worked on which will be unveiled soon,” Zaidi said.