Measures announced to facilitate Seafarers and Manning Agents
KARACHI: Federal Minister for Maritime time Affairs, Syed Ali Haider Zaidi has announced measures to facilitate Seafarers and Registered Manning Agents. The Minister held the Second Quarterly Meeting with Seafarers and Registered Manning Agents in Karachi on Friday to listen to their grievances and for the announcement of two landmark steps that have been taken by the ministry for their facilitation. The first meeting was held in August 2019 whereby it was resolved that such meetings will be held quarterly. Discontinuation of the stipulation of Sign-off/Sign-on and provision of medical facilities in cities other than Karachi was announced which was highly appreciated by both the seafarer community and Manning agents. "We need to tap every source of foreign exchange and remittances from seafarers is one of them. Globally, it's a huge market and the example of the Phillipines having a major share in the pie regardless of a very small population compared to Pakistan is praiseworthy. We are no less in potential, all we need is the right steps to facilitate our human resource and we are letting no stone unturned in this regard. A happy seafarer free from red-tapism and unnecessary hindrances will not only effectively represent Pakistan abroad, but will also contribute to the national prosperity" Ali Ziadi said while addressing the gathering. In line with the promises made at the first meeting, he announced the discontinuation of Sign-off/sign-on requirement whereby a seafarer will not have to contact the shipping master for NOC and "Pakistan Articles of Agreement" to join a foreign flag vessel if he has i) A Valid Passport/Visa, ii) Valid Seamen Service Book, iii) Valid Seafarer Indentity Document / SID Card, iv) Letter from registered Manning Agency of Pakistan, which arranges the employment of the seafarer and v) Letter of employment from Ship-Owner. He also assured the audience that Ministry of Maritime Affairs is actively pursuing the Ok-To-Board policy for our seafarers and is continuously in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on this matter. In addition to the above, the seafarers aged above 60 years are now entitled to SSB with a validity of 10 years. The provision of medical facility in cities other than Karachi for facilitation of the seafarers, has also been allowed and the panel of doctors is being expanded. Previously, only one doctor in Karachi was on the panel, which created difficulties for the seafarers. Another issue that was identified earlier this year was the discontinuation of the issuance of SID cards, which was not only resolved immediately with the collaboration of NADRA and KPT, but also the establishment of a permanent mechanism is underway and funds have been approved for the purpose. The Machine Readable Seafarer Identity Cards will be issued by NADRA. There will be online verification of shipping office data which is a part of the digitization drive at The Ministry of Maritime Affairs. "Maritime Affairs is going towards a paperless environment with the introduction of e-office. I am ensuring that the ministry observes international best practices" said Ali Zaidi. Also, the upper limit in public dealing hours at the government shipping office has been increased from 01:00 PM to 03:00 PM for the facilitation of the seafarers. A 24/7 facility is also available on a special request in case there is an emergency. Another landmark step is the facilitation of seafarers to join universities for higher education. More than 40 cadets have been assisted to get enrolled in universities for higher education. "Conversion of our human resource to human capital is only possible with diversification in their experience and specialization in their education. Our team is diligently working on multiple options to help seafarers so that they can compete in the international market" remarked Ali Zaidi. To achieve this goal, 33 scholarships per year are to be provided for four years in PMA to the youth of all provinces with 11 scholarships each sponsored by PNSC, PQA and KPT. "This meeting shows the firm resolve of the government to listen to the grievances of the people and resolve their issues" remarked Ali Zaidi concluding the event. The minister answered the questions of the audience and listened to their problems. The next such meeting will be held in February 2020 and all the stakeholders will be taken on board. It was also assured that such meetings will continue to be held unless all the issues of Pakistani Seafarers are resolved.