Today the Maritime Industry is navigating many complexities of COVID-19, including travel restrictions, port closures, crew changes, repatriation of seafarers, etc. Here the role of Maritime associations assumes a greater significance. To address the key issues and the steps that can be taken to overcome the current crisis, International Maritime Club (I.M.C.) organized its maiden webinar on 28th October 2020. The panel discussion was hosted on zoom and telecasted live on Marine BizTV & IMC FaceBook Pages.
The webinar was moderated by Jagmeet Singh Makkar, Chairman (H.K. Branch), Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, Co-Founder & Director, SkillsPlus, Director, Pastiche Holdings Ltd, Chairman: Maritime & Logistics Arbitration, H.K.C.I.C.A., and the Panelists included Capt. Gautam Ramaswamy, Director – Regulatory Affairs, Hong Kong Shipowners Association (H.K.S.O.A.); Capt. Sanjay Prashar, Founder and Managing Director, V.R. Maritime Services Pvt Ltd, Member of National Shipping Board; Capt. Rajesh Tandon, Global Director – Industrial Relations and Seafarer Development, V Group, Director- F.O.S.M.A. & Past chairman International Maritime Employer’s Council (I.M.E.C.) U.K.; Ms. Sanjam Sahi Gupta, Director – Sitara Shipping Ltd, Founder member of W.I.S.T.A. India, Board Member – W.I.S.T.A. International, Executive Board of Directors of the World Maritime University Malmo, Sweden; Ms. Arathi Narayanan M.I.C.S. – Head of Administration, A.B.S. Marine Services Pvt Ltd; Mr. Punit Oza – Executive Director Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration (S.C.M.A.) and Mr. Abdulgani Y Serang – General Secretary-Cum-Treasurer of National Union of Seafarers of India.
Some exciting and fascinating points were discussed during the webinar. Some of the Key Takeaways from the Program are as follows:
Capt. Ramaswamy opined that the maritime industry has not been very successful in promoting itself to the wider world to the extent that voices from outside the industry set the narrative about the industry. This has, in his view led to the industry gaining a reputation that it may not necessarily deserve, for example, when the industry is (rightly) held responsible for around 2% of the emissions worldwide, the fact that it is responsible for the carriage of around 90% of world trade is often omitted. He firmly believes that the maritime industry’s perception must have a facelift. The general public must recognize the immense contribution by the seafarers who work onboard and offshore, to keep the supply chain moving. He believes that the maritime industry must have a strong P.R. and social media strategy, which can mobilize the masses’ support, make lawmakers worldwide recognize the political importance of supporting the Industry.
Capt. Sanjay Prashar gave a crisp presentation with very useful data analysis on closed ports, restrictions on crew change ports. He suggested that such ground reality data must be submitted regularly to N.G.O.s registered with I.M.O. and Local Government. Seafarer welfare schemes must be made known. Associations must be rated for their work and a precise social media plan initiated to inform influential people globally. Most importantly, the associations must reach out to Seafarers on new issues like Covid-19. He explained the situation using a slide showing the countries where Indian Seafarers are allowed to join on OK to Board and explained the role the government has in facilitating the crew changes / providing assistance to non – COVID 19 related medical emergencies.
Mr. Punit Oza opined that Industry bodies are the critical bearers of experience and feedback from the ground level – the industry players. Thus, their main task is to promote an open dialogue and a forum to share industry experiences in the COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 world. Hence, it is the Regulatory or Government bodies’ responsibility to take the Industry and Industry bodies’ feedback, build and formulate schemes and let the Industry implement them. They must also ensure that they reach the target audience. Such plans must cover the Financial or Economic incentives, including job support, grants, and trainee schemes for companies and individuals. Operational Assistance including facilitating crew changes, creating “bubbles and safe zones,” and setting up initiatives such as SG-STAR Fund, a joint initiative of MPA/SSA/SMOU with I.T.F., I.M.E.C. and International Chamber of Shipping, must be considered. Digitalization Incentives, including grants and support to companies to digitalize and Reskilling opportunities, must also be considered.
Ms. Arathi Narayanan suggested that regulatory bodies must ensure proper execution of orders at the ground level and work together to alleviate Shipowners/managers’ issues. She also pointed out that Delays at operations and management levels often leads to an exponential increase in costs. Thus, Digitalisation can support ship operations and dispute resolution.
Ms. Sanjam Sahi Gupta highlighted that at the beginning of 2020, as an industry they had been examining how the Fourth Industrial Revolution would exponentially change the way we live, work and relate to one another due to the adoption of the Internet of Things, smart technologies, cyber-physical systems, and autonomous vehicles. The WISTA position has been that with the advent of new technologies, there would be more opportunities for women to not only participate in the industry but also in management positions as previous requirements would now change. She expressed her concerns about the current COVID-19 pandemic, as any progress made by the industry during the past decades now stands at a greater risk which everyone in the industry need to address, carefully.
Mr. Abdulgani Y. Serang was appreciative of the DG shipping for the efforts made to help with the crew changes. He also told the panel and the audience of the special arrangements made by NUSI to contact the seafarers’ families and provide them emotional support.
Capt. Rajesh Tandon highlighted the initiatives taken by industry social partners IMEC/ITF to sensitize ILO/IMO and issue guidelines in order to facilitate ease of travel for seafarers at a macro global level. He also shared efforts taken by his organization to support families of the seafarers, especially during such testing times.
Moderator Mr. Jagmeet Makkar thanked the organizers and the panelists, ending with a note that contributions and sacrifices made by the women at home, in the abnormally long absence of their seafaring husbands, must not be forgotten.
About International Maritime Club
International Maritime Club is a non-profit organization that works for the maritime Industry’s continuous and conscious development. Established in 2007, the club acted as a platform where professionals from various maritime industry sectors come together under one roof to exchange knowledge and ideas on the maritime trade and Industry.