India’s Role in Global Shipping Industry

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    Syllabus: GS 3/Internal Security /Economy

    • India submitted papers to the 111th Session of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Legal Committee (LEG) amid rising safety concerns among Indian seafarers .
    • India is the third-largest provider of seafarers worldwide, following China and the Philippines. 
    • Currently representing 9.35% of the global seafaring population, India aims to increase its share to 20% in the next 10 to 20 years, with ship management companies playing a crucial role.
    • Around 2,50,000 Indian seafarers serving on specialised cargo vessels worldwide.
    • During the COVID-19 pandemic, Indian seafarers demonstrated their resilience and professionalism, enhancing India’s standing in the global maritime market. 
    • The Ukraine-Russia conflict has also created opportunities for new players in the Indian maritime sector.
    • The maritime industry, vital for global trade, depends heavily on seafarers who often face challenges and risks.
    • Recent attacks on commercial ships have heightened safety concerns among Indian seafarers, with some considering quitting their jobs due to security fears.
      • Data from the International Maritime Bureau show a more than 10% increase in serious piracy incidents over the last 10 months. 
      • Instances  :In December 2023 and January 2024, Somali pirates targeted vessels such as the MV Ruen and MV Lila Norfolk.
        • the recent attacks on commercial ships in sensitive geographical areas such as the Red Sea and the Strait of Hormuz.
    • Iranian shipping companies, in collaboration with international recruiters, exploit Indian seafarers by luring them with false promises of high salaries and opportunities in the Middle East. 
    • Seafarers often face overwork, are provided insufficient food, and are forced into transporting illegal cargo, despite paying hefty fees to secure overseas jobs.
      • Since 2020, over 200 cases of seafarer exploitation have been reported to the Indian Maritime Administration. 
    • The majority lacked legal representation, felt unfairly treated, and were unaware of their rights. 
    • Three years ago, the Maritime Union of India highlighted a 40% increase in kidnappings in the Gulf of Guinea, with 134 cases of assault, injury, and threats reported. 
    • Reports reveal cases of seafarers being held in foreign jails, stranded in foreign waters, and subjected to illegal detentions. ‘
    • India has submitted papers to the IMO’s Legal Committee, which emphasise seafarers’ security and contract terms.
    • India has stressed the need for a comprehensive approach to maritime security and advocated improved contractual conditions for seafarers.
    • India has called for broader international cooperation to tackle various maritime threats, including piracy, armed robbery, extremist attacks, regional conflicts, and emerging risks such as drone attacks and the use of maritime weapons.
    •  India has called for vigilance, proactive measures, and international cooperation to combat piracy and protect seafarers, in line with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
    • India has also highlighted the impact of unlawful recruitment practices on seafarers’ well-being and international trade. 
    • India has urged international coordination to address issues and ensure seafarers’ rights under the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.
    • The Indian government and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) launched the ‘human rights at sea’ initiative. 
    • Despite risks, many Indian seafarers remain committed to their careers at sea, which makes it imperative to have improved rights and protection. 
    • Addressing piracy requires a comprehensive land-based solution. 
    • There is a need to address crucial issues such as seafarers’ security, contract terms, and broader maritime security challenges.
    • This underlines the urgent need for government support and enhanced protection measures.
    • The enhanced international cooperation is needed to safeguard seafarers and ensure uninterrupted navigation, especially amid rising incidents involving Indian seafarers and geopolitical tensions.
    Mains Practice Question
    [Q] How does India play a significant role in keeping the global shipping industry running?discuss challenges faced by Indian seafarers and ways to solve them .