MARGAO: Considering the limitations in the present Seafarers Provident Fund Act, 1966, a review of the Act has been undertaken and would be amended soon, the Directorate General of Shipping has informed.
This information was provided by the DG Shipping in response to the nine demands that Rajya Sabha MP Luizinho Faleiro had sent to the statutory Maritime authority of the country, on behalf of Goa Seaman Association of India (GSAI).
The DG Shipping has replied in detail to the issues raised by Faleiro, informing about the measures it has taken.
“Since the present Seafarers Provident Fund Act, 1966, is having limitations, the amendments in the Act incorporating the schemes, viz Pension, Provident Fund, Gratuity to all seafarers has to be made. In view of the above, an exercise of review of Seafarers Provident Fund Act, 1966 and preparation of Draft Bill for amendment of the said Act is being undertaken by the Seafarers Provident Fund Organisation,” said Ashish Sinha, Deputy Director, DG Shipping in a three-page letter to Faleiro.
It may be recalled that recently, Faleiro had demanded while speaking in the Rajya Sabha, that the Union Ministry of Shipping create a scheme to provide seafarers with financial support after they retire.
In his response, Sinha also stated in the letter that the Government of India (GoI) is very conscious of the need for continuous upskilling and welfare of the seafarers to alleviate the hardships and difficulties of seafarers and their families.
“The government has taken various measures for the welfare of seafarers from time to time,” he said.
DG Shipping also replied to the concerns raised by the MP about how the existing pension scheme is insufficient for retired seafarers or widows of seafarers. It provided the status regarding the charter demand for exemption of income tax for all Indian seafarers working on Indian and foreign vessels.
“Seafarers working on Indian and Foreign going vessels continuously for 183 days or more during the financial year as per his/her CDC or passport, are already considered as Non-Resident Indian (NRI) under the Income Tax Act, 1961. However, seafarers working in Indian waters are not exempted. The matter of exempting all the Indian seafarers working in Indian waters from Income Tax does not pertain to DG Shipping, Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, GoI. It falls in the domain of the Ministry of Finance, GoI,” Sinha added.
The DG Shipping official added that the Government’s role in any dispute or demand between the seafarer and the Ship's owner/company is to monitor the compliance of the Maritime Labour Convention to which India is a party.
DG Shipping also responded to the demand put forward to them regarding solving unemployment and reducing the gap between demand and supply.
"The Government of India has taken various steps to increase the employment opportunities of Indian seafarers, which has resulted in increasing the number of employment of seafarers for the past 5 years. Due to the continuous reformative and progressive steps taken by the Government, the number of Indian seafarers employed in 2022 calendar year has reached the record level of 2,44,063 on national and international fleet as compared to 1,17,090 in the year 2014,” said Sinha.
"The tonnage under Indian flag has also reached over 13.6 million tonnes with 1520 ships under Indian flag as compared to tonnage of 10.4 million tonnes with 1212 ships in the year 2014 which has led to more employment opportunities for seafarers,” Sinha added.
He also pointed out that certain issues raised are awaiting the approval of Director DG Shipping and the Additional Secretary to the Government of India.