In a major development, India is changing its provident fund laws for seafarers, making them eligible for a pension, gratuity and provident funds when employed by foreign-flagged ships.
The Directorate General Of Shipping has given a proposal in this regard. The PF law used at present only covers those working on Indian ships. The 1966 Seamen’s Provident Fund Act governs Indian seafarers working in Indian vessels.
The amendment will introduce pension and gratuity into the PR schemes, which will likely have a good impact on the seafarers’ life. The modifications are suggested keeping in mind the Maritime Labour Convention guidelines. They are drawn per the 2006 International Labour Organisation (ILO) guidelines.
The MLC takes have articulated the employment terms of seafarers, like their working and living conditions, health and safety issues, social security and medical care facilities, and their rights at work.
Without a law for Indian crew on foreign ships, Indian seafarers only get a provident fund as per ship owners’ will; it’s a voluntary act. They pay them arbitrarily and often only to the general purpose staff if it is mentioned in their agreement.
176290 Indian seafarers were working on foreign-flagged ships in 2021. That’s more than 50% of the total number of Indian seafarers working on vessels which is 205787. Out of this 176290, only 99409 were ratings or general purpose staff.
The Ministry is trying to associate with recruitment agencies and placement service providers for this purpose so that pension and gratuity from foreign ships become less of a hassle.
It will be done through the DG Shipping approved Recruitment & Placement of Seafarers License (RPSL), given to recruiters and placement service providers working in the country for the maritime sector.
It will be implemented through the recruitment companies used by foreign owners. Most of them have agents in the country.
The draft for amendments will be sent to the cabinet for approval following suggestions from stakeholders and inter-ministerial consultations. At present, it is open to comments from the stakeholders.
References: Economic Times, The Goan Everyday