New Delhi: About 40,000 crew and seafarers stranded on cargo and cruise vessels across the globe are awaiting return to Indian shores, with the government assuring to extend help once the nationwide lockdown on account of coronavirus outbreak is lifted, maritime bodies have said.
There are about 15,000 seafarers onboard about 500 cargo vessels across the globe, and another 25,000 on cruise ships.
Maritime bodies like NUSI, MUI and MASSA said that they have raised the issue with the Shipping Ministry, which has assured to extend all possible help for return of these seafarers after the lockdown is lifted.
"It is estimated that around 40,000 Indian seafarers are stranded on cargo and cruise vessels across the globe and are waiting to come back home since their job contracts have expired," said Capt Shiv Halbe, CEO of Maritime Association of Shipowners, Shipmanagers and Agents (MASSA).
He said the issue was raised before Shipping Minister Mansukh Lal Manadaviya, who assured their safe passage back home once the lockdown is lifted.
"However, the minister said that the seafarers will need to be tested and then quarantined or isolated," he added.
Maritime Union of India (MUI) General Secretary Amar Singh Thakur said, "The minister agreed that there is a need to treat seafarers as 'essential workers' and to provide smooth relief facilities in ports. Their welfare should be looked after whilst they are onboard and in transit."
National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) General Secretary Abdulgani Serang said, "I assured the minister that NUSI will certainly do the needful to financially support Indian seafarers in the current scenario when Indian economy is passing through a rough phase due to pandemic across the globe."
He said NUSI has earmarked a corpus of Rs 10 crore to support retired Indian seafarers, disabled seafarers, widows of seafarers and jobless seafarers who have been out of job for the past nine months.
India has 12 major ports Deendayal (erstwhile Kandla), Mumbai, JNPT, Mormugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Kamarajar (earlier Ennore), V.O. Chidambaranar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia)....