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Kerala: Shipping crew missing, parents seek investigation; Estonian seamen want income to be guaranteed in case of being taken hostage

Kerala: Shipping crew missing, parents seek investigation
Apr 2, 2018

The family of the youth has raised suspicions over the incident and sought the Centre’s intervention.

HIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A youth from Kochi working in an international ship of a Hong Kong based firm was reported missing since Thursday while the ship was in African seas. The family of the youth has raised suspicions over the incident and sought the Centre’s intervention. Aswin Kumar, 24, hailing from Kakkanad in Kochi, who was working as trainee electrical officer on board LPG tanker MV Shahrastani, was reported missing. The shipping firm informed the family on March 30 that Aswin was missing since 8 pm on March 29 after he went to the engine control room to read manuals.

Raising suspicions, Aswin’s father K.S. Harikumar said in a petition to the Centre that MV Shahrastani was an ‘Unmanned Machinery Space’ (UMS) classified ship. Hence, after the day operation the engine room would be unmanned and in Wheelhouse control, unless there are emergencies or inspections. He also said that Aswin was in touch with the family on social media messaging apps till Wednesday 8 pm.

“We suspect foul play about our son going missing and the date and time of missing mentioned in the company letter,” said Harikumar. He sought the original voyage data recorder of the vessel be obtained immediately. Based on Harikumar’s petition, the Infopark police registered a missing case on Saturday. According to his relatives, Aswin was placed on board the vessel on March 6 from Shenzhen in China. The vessel was off Madagascar coast while at the time he was reported missing. The shipping company had informed that the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres of Australia, Mauritius and La Reunion island.

Estonian seamen want income to be guaranteed in case of being taken hostage
2 April 2018

Estonian anti-piracy team in training. The seamen's union argues that as its members don't get a say in where their ships are sent, they should have a minimum of coverage.

The Estonian Seamen's Independent Union (EMSA) wants the International Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) changed so that it would guarantee the protection of the income of ship crew members in case they are held hostage as the result of piracy or an armed robbery.

The Ministry of Social Affairs is seeking opinions from unions on a bill of amendments to the MLC, which have been proposed by representatives of seamen as well as shipowners, and which concern the protection of ship crew members' income in case of being held hostage by pirates.

The shipowners' group finds that protection should be assured with guidelines, which are recommendations, not obligatory. Representatives of seamen find that the convention as well as standards need to be changed, EMSA said in a reply to the ministry.

It is a very important issue for seamen, secretary general of EMSA Kaia Vask said. "Members of a crew can't decide whether a ship will sail to a piracy region or not. The choice is made by the ship's owner. Members of the crew also don't have the chance to influence a shipowner's choice to guarantee armed protection for a ship," she added.

If a ship is hijacked by pirates and the crew is captured, then the crew members are not the only ones who suffer, but also their family members who count on the income. Therefore it is crucial that the families are guaranteed adequate income for the duration of being held hostage. But this cannot only be guaranteed with voluntary recommendations, EMSA finds.