Friday, September 27, 2013

Debashis Dutta elected Chairman of FFFAI


Mr. Debashis Dutta, representing Calcutta Custom House Agents Association, was unanimously elected as Chairman for the two-year term at the voting held for electing new Chairman and office-bearers of Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations in India (FFFAI) in Mumbai on Sept. 22. Mr. Dutta is the Director of BG Somadder & Sons Pvt Ltd, Kolkata, that has branches in Kolkata air cargo complex, Haldia and Paradip.

He also holds the position of member, Board of Trustees, Kolkata Port Trust. He further occupies many distinguished offices viz., Executive Committee Member, Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Honorary Finance Secretary, Mohun Bagan Athletic Club; National Soccer Club of India; Director of United Mohun Bagan Football Team Pvt Ltd; Divisional Warden, Civil Defence, Government of West Bengal; and past President of Calcutta Custom House Agents’ Association.

Along with the incumbent Chairman, the association elected Mr. Samir Shah, Mr. Sailesh Bhatia, Mr. Shailendra Jain, Mr. Shankar Shinde, Mr. D. Vijaykumar and Mr. C. Karthikeya Prabu as Vice-Chairmen. Mr. Amit Kamat representing Goa Custom House Agents Association was elected as Honorary Secretary for the second consecutive term. Mr. Sarafaraz Khan representing Aurangabad Custom House Agents Association was unanimously elected as Honorary Treasurer.

Mr. Shantanu Bhadkamkar is now the immediate past Chairman of FFFAI after completion of his term as Chairman of FFFAI. Mr. Raman Raj Sud now becomes the new member of the Board of Advisors of FFFAI. Executive Committee Members gave a standing ovation to Mr. Shantanu Bhadkamkar for his outstanding contributions during his two-year term for taking FFFAI to new heights.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Chennai Port throws baits to Andhra EXIM fraternity


As part of its drive to reach out to cargo-originating regions to garner sustained support, Chennai Port has organised “Trade Facilitation Meet” in Hyderabad recently.

Organised in association with the Federation of Andhra Pradesh Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FAPCCI), Chennai Port used the forum to showcase the facilities and advantages of the Eastern gateway port that has regular mainline vessel connectivity to various ports across the globe.
Officials of the port management made an elaborate presentation about the port, its facilities to the regional EXIM players and underlined that after stoppage of coal/ iron ore handling, the Chennai Port has vast open area of 11, 46, 160 sq. mtrs and covered area of 28,768 sq. mtrs available for other cargoes.
At the trade meet, the Chennai Port drove home the message that the Eastern gateway is now focussing towards attracting clean cargo especially machineries, automobiles, project cargo, steel and agro products, apart from containerised cargo.
It may be worth recalled here that the port continues to be the second largest container port among the Major Ports after JNPT and had handled the highest volume of 1539279 TEUs during 2012-13.
Besides, the port has better connectivity of Ro-Ro vessels operated regularly by the leading shipping lines viz. NYK, WWL, GLOVIS, EUKOR and HOEGH with the trade route destined to Africa, South America and Far East countries.
Briefing about the EXIM players in Hyderabad to utilise all the facilities at the Chennai Port, a senior ChPt official said the port has taken pro-active action to improve the productivity and attract cargo by offering concession in charges. “The port provides concession on vessel related charges (VRC) for mainline container vessels to the extent of 20% to 55% since January this year." 
"Also, introduced half shift gang from April which enables to commence cargo operations immediately after berthing of the vessels and the slab period for penal demurrage is increased from 17 to 30 days for import cargo and 30 to 40 days for export cargo.  Direct delivery of cargo and using private crane is also allowed without any restrictions,” the official explained.

In order to improve the productivity, the Chennai Port has also invited RFQ for the supply, operation and maintenance of four Harbour Mobile Cranes with the capacity of 100 tonnes each. Those cranes are expected to be pressed into operation by the end of July 2014.

“With a view to arresting congestion of trailers for seal verification at Madhavaram, an area far away from Chennai Port, the port has initiated steps to develop a CFS for seal verification at Thiruvottiyur, an area very close to the main entry/ exit gate of the port,” the ChPT official further explained to the 150-odd EXIM fraternity that attended the trade meet.
As a next leg of such outdoor trade meet, the port management is likely to organise an event at Tirupur in the coming weeks.
Besides others, Capt. P. V. K Mohan, Chairman of National Shipping Board; Mr Atulya Mishra, Chairman, Chennai Port Trust; Mr. P. C. Parida, Deputy Chairman, Chennai Port Trust; Mr. N. Vaiyapuri, Traffic Manager; Mr. Srinivas Ayyadevara, President, FAPCCI; and Mr. C. S. Narendra, President, CHA-Hyderabad; attended the meet.

World Maritime Day 2013 “Sustainable Development: IMO's contribution beyond Rio+20”


Today (26 September 2013) marks the 36th celebration of World Maritime Day. This year’s theme is: "Sustainable Development: IMO's contribution beyond Rio+20".

In his World Maritime Day message, IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu said that maritime transport was central to sustainable development, as the world's only really reliable, global, cost-effective and energy-efficient mass transportation method for energy, materials, foods and industrial products.
“The maritime transportation system itself must, therefore, ensure that its development is also sustainable,” Mr. Sekimizu said, adding that this blanket term included not just the operation of ships, but all the activities that are vital to support shipping, such as the operation of maritime traffic management systems and global communication systems, ports and multi-modal connections are all components of this multi-faceted sector.

“Shipbuilding and classification, ship registry and administration, ship finance, ship repairing, ship recycling, the education and training of seafarers, are all part of the system – as, indeed, are search and rescue services, maritime security agencies, coast guards and maritime law enforcement agencies and many others, too. They all have a part to play in defining and achieving a sustainable Maritime Transportation System,” Mr. Sekimizu said. 

“Because the Maritime Transportation System is so essential to the continued development and future growth of the world economy, IMO will continue to take the lead in supporting it with the appropriate global standards and by helping to promote, through technical co-operation, the necessary national maritime transportation policies and institutional frameworks for a sustainable Maritime Transportation System,” Mr. Sekimizu said. 

The concept of a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System will be discussed at a symposium to be held on World Maritime Day at IMO Headquarters in London.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also issued a message for World Maritime Day, in which he noted that this year’s World Maritime Day fell at an important time, as the United Nations was leading the final stretch of its global campaign to address human suffering through the Millennium Development Goals while shaping a vision for the post-2015 period.

“In this effort, we value maritime transport as a cost-effective and energy-efficient link in the global supply chain. Let us use this occasion to reaffirm our commitment to optimize the management of maritime transport to support sustainable development,” Mr. Ban said.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Politicians created fissure in Indian-Lankan fishermen relationship


With the continuing trend of arrests of Indian fishermen by Sri Lankan authorities and vice versa, there is no doubt that the issue is slowly reaching towards its crescendo, from where nobody really knows what would happen at the end.

The continued detention of 100-odd Indian fishermen by Sri Lanka on serious charges including drug smuggling has created a state-wide agitation in Tamil Nadu, the bordering state with Sri Lanka across Palk Strait.

As the relatives and friends of those fishermen living in Tamil Nadu feel that it is a pure vindictive action by the Sri Lankan authorities, who are often said to take such action on fishermen due to Island’s political posture on Tamils, the situation is slowly getting out of control.

Meanwhile, five Sri Lankan fishermen, who had been apprehended by Indian Coast Guard personnel attached to Tuticorin station on Sept. 17, were handed over to Tuticorin Marine Police. According to Coast Guard sources, they were found illegally fishing in Indian waters 70 nautical miles South East off Kanyakumari.

It is not a stray incident and the Indian Coast Guard regularly detains Sri Lankan fishermen for illegally fishing inside Indian Exclusive Economic Zone, where there are abundant fish reserves, particularly of export items like Tuna, which fetches very high value in international markets.

Even though the Indian authorities regularly detain Sri Lankan fishermen for illegally fishing inside Indian territorial waters, it has never pressed for continued detention of them and always repatriates them to Sri Lanka in the shortest possible time.

However, Indian fishermen say that the Lankan authorities always press for strong charges against those innocent (Indian) fishermen straying into their territorial waters, despite fully knowing that they were in search of better fish catch in the strait.

It may be noted here that the Sri Lankan Government had detained about five fishermen from Tamil Nadu on the charges of trying to smuggle narcotics.

Palk Strait, a major livelihood for Indian fishermen

Fishing is a major livelihood of the fishermen from coastal districts of Tamil Nadu, which is located across the Palk Strait, Sri Lanka.

Initially, prior to the outbreak of ethnic war between Tamils and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, these fishing activities were going on as usual. But after the mid-1980s when the ethnic problem took a bigger proposition in the Island’s political circles, the condition started to worsen.

In those days, according to seasoned fishermen from the coastal districts, Lankan authorities used to fire on Indian fishermen on suspicion that they helped the armed Tamil militant groups by ways and means. Even though the attitude of Sri Lankan authorities remained hawkish on Indian fishermen since then, they regularly go for fishing in the strait, as it is filled with fish, mostly consumed in Tamil Nadu.

While most of the sea along the Indian border remains shallow and possibilities of huge fish catch remains very minimal, the fishermen from Tamil Nadu prefer to go towards the other side of the disputed Katchatheevu Island in the strait, where fish reserve remains abundant due to the depth and rocky formation.

Limited coastline, cause of concern

The coastline in Tamil Nadu can be divided into three fishing zones. From Pulicat Lake to Point Calimere lies the Coramandel coast. From Point Calimere to Dhanushkodi lies the Palk Strait and from Dhanushkodi to Kanyakumari stretches the Gulf of Mannar.

Though the two other areas never remained a problem, the Palk Strait, which is the area of concern, is just 22 miles of water that separates the northern coast of Sri Lanka from the southeast coast of India. The international boundary line is close to both the countries and the boundary is 6.9 nm (nautical miles) away from Dhanushkodi , 11.5 nm from Rameswaram,15.9 nm from Point Calimere and 23 nm from Vedaranyam.

The Palk Bay (named after Robert Palk, Governor of Madras) is landlocked and is connected with Gulf of Mannar by a narrow passage called Pamban Strait which separates Rameswaram from the mainland.

Katchatheevu pregnant with abundant fish varieties

The island of dispute Katchatheevu is located in the Palk Strait, 10.5 miles south of the delft island in Sri Lanka and 12 miles from the nearest point on the Indian coast off Rameswaram. It is mile-long and 300 yards wide with an area of 285.2 acres and has an abundant source of several fish varieties including prawns, normally consumed in the State of Tamil Nadu.

It has been widely written in the Media and even by the Chief Ministers of TN that Katchatheevu was ceded away to Sri Lanka. Before 1974, Katchatheevu had been an integral part of India based on the Zamindari Rights of Raja of Ramnad. According to available details, in 1880 Muhammad Abdul Khader and Muthuswamy Pillai executed a registered lease deed which made provisions for collection of roots for dyeing purposes from 70 villages and 11 islands belonging to Ramnad Estate – Katchatheevu was one of the islands.

In 1913, a lease had been entered into between Raja of Ramnad and Secretary of State for India in Council for using different kinds of boats and to collect and take away any chank shells; and here too Katchatheevu being mentioned in Palk Bay. Both India and Ceylon were colonized by British and they had recognized Katchatheevu as a part of India.

In 1947 there was a lease executed to Diwan of Ramanathapuram exclusively for Katchatheevu. Later in 1948 Zamindari was abolished under the Madras Estates Act and the Ramnad Zamindari was taken over by the Government of Madras. So by abolishing the Zamindari system the sovereign State has the claim over the island.

Fishermen considered supporters of militants

Though fishing activities along the disputed Katchatheevu area were continuing for centuries, the ethnic war in Sri Lanka changed the whole scenario after 1980s. When armed struggle by different Tamil groups in Sri Lanka started gaining foothold in the early 1980s, the Sri Lankan authorities, who were clueless about the activities, were quick to point finger on the innocent fishermen from the Tamil Nadu State as the supporters of the ethnic groups and charged them with carriers of materials meant for the liberation movements.

The attitude of Lankan Navy had helped dawn a new era in the Palk Strait, where every (Tamil Nadu) fisherman became a prime suspect in the eyes of the Lankan authorities as the supporters of ethnic war in the Island Nation.

In a gradual shift in dealing with these fishermen, the Lankan Navy started attacking them and over a period and in due course of time, it has become a regular phenomenon.

According to Mr. Vivekanandan, who is currently advisor of the South Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies, a cooperative organisation for a small group of fishermen which has over a quarter century experience in working with fishing communities, there are two distinct issues here.

The first is the movement of Indian boats into Sri Lankan waters, especially in the Palk Bay – the shallow, narrow strait between India and Sri Lanka.

The second is the Sri Lankan ‘multi-day’ fishing boats, which fish in many parts of India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The Palk Bay problem arises because the international border is close to the shores of both India and Sri Lanka.

Historically, fishermen from both the countries had fished amicably in the Palk Bay without any notion of a border. The border was fixed in 1974, but there were no conflicts till the civil war in 1983, after which Sri Lankan fishermen were not permitted to fish normally by the Sri Lankan authorities, due to security concerns.

The Indian side saw this as an opportunity to cross over and fish in the Lankan waters; their fleet expanded, particularly the trawl fleet. The smaller-scale fishermen in India have always been at loggerheads with the trawl fleet, which is not allowed to fish within three nautical miles of the shore of Tamil Nadu. So they go beyond this to fish, deep within Sri Lankan waters.

Lankan Navy atrocities

According to information available in public domain, more than 500 Tamil Nadu fishermen had been killed by Lankan Navy personnel between 1983 and 2005.

Besides, there are reports that from 1983 to 1991 Sri Lankan Navy had attacked fishermen 236 times and over 3000 boats (both trawler and small fibre boats) were damaged or destroyed.

However, the scenario has changed after 2005. From the killings of innocent fishermen, Sri Lankan Navy has now turned towards detention and torturing of them for fishing near the disputed Katchatheevu.

New tantrum

According to Lanka’s Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, the Island Nation has planned to adopt a new stringent policy to deal with the continuous problem of Indian fishermen ‘poaching’ in the country’s territorial waters.

Addressing the local Media recently, the Minister said as part of a new initiative which is to be adopted by the Sri Lankan Government on humanitarian grounds to deal with Indian fishermen, the authorities will from now on confiscate their boats as opposed to the usual practice of releasing the boats with the fishermen.

The Indian fishermen are also suffering as a result of the actions by their boat owners and languishing in Sri Lanka’s jails,” Minister Senaratne explained.

He said Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan custody will be released soon after completing the legal proceedings.

Associations’ view

Speaking to Sagar Sandesh, Mr. K. Bharathi, President of South Indian Fishermen Welfare Association (SIFWA), said: “At one point of time, after the consistent brutal attacks on our innocent and unarmed fishermen by the Lankan Navy, we lost hope in the Indian Government (for failing to protect its citizens in sea) and even went on to the extent of seeking gun licences which would definitely send a ‘right message’ to the Government.”

However, the Indian Government shot down the proposal by the association, citing various grounds including that it could become deadly mid-sea clashes between Lankan Navy and Indian fishermen if allowed.

He added: “After the end of ethnic war in the Island Nation, the Lankan Navy has switched to other means of harassing the innocent Indian fishermen. What is alarming about the attack is the nature, which is mostly very cruel. We heard that fishermen were stripped naked and forced to do homosexual acts only to torture them mentally as killings had become a big issue after the end of the ethnic war.”

Besides, there have been numerous instances wherein they have been taken into custody and tortured, physically and verbally abused, hit with hose pipes and burnt with hot rods, Mr. Bharathi lamented.

Making a more comprehensive analysis about the whole story, Mr. S. A. Mahesh, President of All Indian Traditional Fishermen Association, stated: “The fish varieties Indians (South Indian states) consume are abundantly available in the waters close to the Lankan maritime border near Katchatheevu and the kind of fish the Sri Lankan fishermen are inclined to net are abundantly available inside the Indian territorial waters. And both the fishermen know it very well. But the political class does not want to understand the whole point and is creating fissures in the relationship of fishermen from both the countries.”

Politicians vs problem

While DMK Chief M. Karunanidhi criticized right from the beginning during the 1974 agreement, the AIADMK party Chief and Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa called upon the people of the State to take a pledge to retrieve the island on Aug. 15, 1991.  Besides, she Jayalalithaa also wrote a well-analysed letter in 2003 to then Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee suggesting alternatives to get back Katchatheevu.

One of the possible solutions put forth was to get the island of Katchatheeu and adjacent sea on “Lease in perpetuity” solely for fishing, drying of nets and pilgrimage, she mentioned in the letter. However, years have passed since then, but nothing has fructified yet on the fishermen issue.

As far as the point of view is concerned from the Navy side on the fishermen issue, the then Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Nirmal Verma, had said that the issue of cross-border fishing has to be tackled between the fishing communities of the two regions and the governments of the two countries (Sri Lanka and India).

According to Admiral Verma, it was a larger issue and it was not merely a Navy to Navy issue. “It is something which engages the attention of our senior political hierarchy at the highest level, be it the State or the Centre,” he opined.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

L & T Kattupalli Port greets Hyundai vessel


Mr Vishal Mathur, GM-Marketing & Commercial, L&T Ports, Kattupalli, presented a memento to the captain of the vessel in the presence of Mr. Jean Johnson (extreme left), General Manager, Hyundai Merchant Marine (South India), Chennai.

Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM) vessel Hyundai Highway on Sept. 18 made a trial call at the L & T managed Kattupalli Port, Tamil Nadu.
According to Hyundai sources, the main-line vessel under Asia-Chennai-Services (ACS) made a port of call at Kattupalli International Container Terminal (KICT) around 7 in the morning and left the port by noon the same day. During the port of call at KICT, the vessel unloaded over 160 import TEUs meant for different customers.
The Port rotation for ACS service is Vostochny, Russia– Busan, Korea–Ulsan, Korea–Shanghai, China–Yantian, China—Singapore– Port Klang, Malaysia– Chennai, India—Singapore– Busan, Korea.
In honour of the new guest at their terminal, Mr. Vishal Mathur, GM-Marketing & Commercial, L & T Ports, Kattupalli, presented a memento to the Captain of the vessel in the presence of Mr. Jean Johnson, General Manager, Hyundai Merchant Marine (South India), Chennai.
While the vessel had called at KICT only on a trial basis, sources have told Sagar Sandesh that Hyundai is most likely to include Kattupalli Port into ACS services’ regular itinerary very soon.

It may be worth recalling that THAILAND CHENNAI EXPRESS SERVICE (“TCX –), a consortium of NYK & XPRESS-Feeders), which had also conducted a trial run a few months ago, began regular weekly service from KICT from Sept. 19.
According to EXIM players, a regular service from Kattupalli Port by Hyundai would give them an additional option to bring more business to the region. It may be noted here that ACS service regularly calls at Chennai Port.

VCT turns 10 – looks back with pride, looks forward with hope


The Visakha Container Terminal (VCT), a joint venture between DP World and United Liner Agencies of India (Private) Ltd at Visakhapatnam Port Trust, celebrated “10 years of excellence” on Sept. 19.

Addressing the elite gathering of EXIM players and shipping fraternity here, Mr. Vir Kotak, Joint Managing Director, Visakha Container Terminal, recalled the journey of VCT over the past 10 years.

Mr. Kotak said: “On May 31, 2001, a young man named Krishna Kotak stood looking out at the vast expanse of the inviting blue-grey sea of the Bay of Bengal. From his vantage point he could see the beautiful city of Visakhapatnam, majestically nestled between green mountains and an endless beach but also something that most of us would fail to see – endless opportunities and possibility of setting up a world-class container terminal. A dream was about to come true and eventually it did.”

“Today Visakha Container Terminal (VCT) is well established as ‘The Ideal Gateway on the East Coast of India’ and is fast developing as a ‘Regional Hub’ in Bay of Bengal,” he added.

Mr. Kotak stated: “Since inception, the terminal has had ship-to-shore gantry cranes and other yard equipment, dedicated software, reefer stacks, generator back up, trained personnel and all that would be expected of any contemporary container terminal. Shipping lines gradually started establishing their presence and today all the major lines operate out from VCT, with mainline and feeder vessels providing the much needed global connectivity to the hinterland trade. VCT is now ready to take confident steps in this new world in coming decade.”

Mr. Anil Singh, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, Indian Subcontinent, DP World, remarked: “We are very proud to be partner of the terminal project, which is recording good growth ever since its inception.

Besides others, staff members of VCT had also attended the grand function.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Chidambaram lens on mega tax dodgers

By Yatish Yadav 

As slow growth taxes the economy, heavy hitters, who have evaded taxes, have come under the eagle eye of Finance Minister P Chidambaram.
Following his instructions to income tax officials to address an estimated backlog of Rs 4 lakh crore of corporate tax, a massive crackdown has been unleashed on all major tax evaders who owe the government upwards of Rs 500 crore.
The Finance Minister hopes to collect over Rs 6,50,000 crore in direct taxes in financial year 2013-14, including corporate tax.
In May, Chidambaram hinted that the government is mining data to enable it to trap tax evaders in the Finance Ministry’s net.
For the first financial quarter of 2013, the government has mined the data of 41 private and public sector enterprises that have to pay Rs 70,000 crore to the Treasury — almost 17 per cent of the estimated corporate tax collection for 2013-14.
With the impending General Elections, the government cannot raise new taxes and the recovery of money from big tax evaders is the best hope to tackle the fiscal and current account deficit crises.
According to Finance Ministry sources, the data has been mined and compiled up to March 2013 and a fresh list is likely to be out in the first week of October, which will provide details of tax collection for the last five months from the 41 cases under scrutiny.
The Income Tax Directorate of Recovery, responsible for taking action on pending dues, is pursuing the matter with field authorities.
Chidambaram had said the method the Finance Ministry follows is to mine the data first, issue notices and then gently push evaders into filing returns and paying taxes.
“This is the correct way to go about it,” Chidambaram had said in June.
The Finance Ministry is also addressing the challenges of meeting human resources, technology and time to improve tax collection in order to deal with tax evasion.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

DG Shipping solution in sight for sea-time imbroglio


Taking a firm step towards keeping its promise of helping the thousands of DNS cadets, who were left in the lurch without their mandatory sea-time training to complete B Sc Nautical Science degree, the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) is mulling options to go for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Andaman & Nicobar Administration and Lakshadweep for onboard training.

Speaking to Sagar Sandesh, Mr. Gautam Chatterjee, Director General of Shipping, said: “We had extensive discussions with different people for some time on whether we (Shipping Ministry) can have training cum trading ship where a large number of (DNS) students can be trained.”

Elaborating further about the steps being taken by the DG Shipping for reducing the number of DNS cadets waiting for the training, he added that there is a plan to facilitate an MoU between Indian Maritime University (IMU) and the respective administrations in Andaman Islands and Lakshadweep for the onboard training.

Mr. Chatterjee stated: “We are looking at the possibility of ships, which are running in the mainland- (Andaman & Nicobar) Island sector with 1, 200 passenger capacity, whether we can convert one dormitory for cadets who are put there along with some two officers to have structure training.”

“They (cadets) may not get the total training which is required for the programme, particularly cargo handling,  they may not understand it but a lot of things about ship running, especially the engineering cadets who certainly know about it because it is more or less same,” the DGS pointed out.

Now out of 18 months,  which is required for DNS or six months which is required for engineering, even a 50 % or 60 % of total sea-timing would be covered there, to that extent I have reduced the pressure on other ships,” the DG Shipping observed.

It may be noted here that Andaman administration and Shipping Corporation of India (SCI), a PSU under Ministry of Shipping, runs regular passenger vessel connectivity between Port Blair (capital of the Island) and Chennai, Kolkata and Vizag.

Likewise, Lakshadweep, located on the Arabian Sea has passenger vessel connectivity with Cochin, Kerala.

Meanwhile, officials in the Shipping Ministry are also contemplating for such a proposal (onboard training) to ease pressure on other ship bottoms, after senior mariners briefed them about the advantages of having a trading-cum-training ship.

Recently, a three-member team comprising Mr. K. Shankar, President –Shipping, India Cements, Chennai and Chairman, IMEI – Chennai branch; Capt. S. Bhardwaj, Professor Emeritus, AMET University; and Capt. K. P. Rajagopal, Vice President,  IL & FS  Maritime, gave a detailed presentation to the top Shipping Ministry officials on these lines.

According to Ministry sources, the team emphasized on the idea  of trading-cum-training ship with long term committed charter assisted by Government of India/  public sector undertaking as a technically as well as economically viable option.

They also vouched for a preliminary study involving feasibility of conversion of cape size bulker into cadet training cum trading vessel, whereas such conversion would accommodate about 180 training berths

With the DG Shipping remaining focused on helping the DNS cadets to get out their problems and complete their degree to remain competitive, it looks so certain that MoU would be a reality in the coming weeks.

Friday, September 13, 2013

P. S. Krishnan elected President of CCHAA

                                                                 Mr. P. S. Krishnan

In a tightly fought contest for electing the new office-bearers of Chennai Custom House Agents Association (CCHAA) for the period 2013-2015, Mr. P. S. Krishnan, former Chairman of Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations in India (FFFAI), and his team emerged victorious when the official results were declared.
Mr. Krishnan, currently Advisor to the national level Federation, and his team defeated Mr. A. V. Vijayakumar (immediate past president) and his team in the election that was held in Chennai on Sept. 7.
It may be noted here that the two-time trustee of Chennai Port Trust in the past, Mr. Krishnan was elected to the post of President  in CCHAA for the record fifth time. 
Mr. G. D. Sigamani was elected to the post of Secretary while Mr. D. Vijayakumar became the new treasurer of CCHAA.
Also, Mr. E. V. Subramanian, Mr. R. N. Sekar and Mr. K. V. V Giri were elected as Vice-Presidents of the association, regarded as the backbone of EXIM trade from the region.

The newly elected 25 Executive Committee members are:
Messrs N. Balakrishnan (Standard Container Services); 
T. M. Balasubramanian (KMK Shipping & Clearing (P) Ltd); 
R. Bhaskaran (Sunshine Logistics Pvt Ltd)
P. N. T. Chandru (Navrang Shipping Pvt Ltd); 
C. T. S. Chidambaram (RYK Freight Forwarders Ltd); 
J. Dillibabu (Sai Shipping & Logistics); 
R. Mohan (Sona Logistics India Pvt Ltd)
D. Muralidharan (Pluto Shipping & Logistics Pvt Ltd); 
B. Murugan (PSM Logistics); 
R. Nedumaran (Seatrans Freight Forwarders); 
N. R. Padmanaban (Global Services); 
R. Ramachandran (Sri Kalikambal Shipping Pvt Ltd);  
R. Sathyanarayanan (Chozha Naachiyar Shipping Agency); 
R. Lakshmipathy (Sunview Express Logistics Pvt Ltd); 
T. Madhavan (Seagull Freight Systems); 
C. V. Karunakaran (M/s CV Karunakaran)
S. Sivadoss (Kavikumar Shipping Co);  
P. Sreejith (Express Forwarders); 
N. Sundararajan (Alwar Shipping Services); 
G. Tamizhvanan (Tidel Cargo Logistics P Ltd); 
K. S. Hari (S K Star International)
A. Thirunavukkarasu (ARS International)
K. Venkattu (Blue World Cargo)
Vishal Dadha (A.S.Vasan & Sons) and 
M. A. Zahir Hussain (Zim Lines Logistics).

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Will CDC go the Passport way to reduce inordinate delay?


Getting a passport, a precious document for any citizen of our country who wishes to go abroad, used to be a cumbersome process until 2010, when the Union Government took a decision aimed at providing passport-related services speed, convenience and transparency.

Since then, the whole scenario of waiting for passport, sometime up to six months, has drastically come down to just a few days affair with more transparency.

While the function of granting and issuing passport remains with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has been roped in by the Government of India as its technology and operations partner in the mega project.

Just like MEA, which took the risk and brought a private player for infusing transparency in the process as well as for speedy delivery of passports, will the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) utilize the services of such a private player to simplify the cumbersome process in issuing Continuous Discharge Certificates (CDC), regarded as Seafarers’ Identity Documents? It’s indeed a million dollar question which begs for an answer.

In the best interest of thousands of sea-going professionals, the DGS should take a firm step to outsource the issuance of CDC to a compatible private player (just like processing of Indian passports that is given to TCS) to scuttle undue delay, feels many a senior mariner in the fraternity.

Though about five lakhs passports and about a lakh CDCs (both fresh and sticker-renewal) on an average are being issued every year, the cumbersome process in issuing CDC eats away more waiting time for energetic seafarers than for a passport, which could be obtained in a week’s time.

While the country has over 110 locations for obtaining passport, only one point –  the Office of the Shipping Master, Government Shipping Office (GSO), Mumbai, has been designated by the Government to cater to the CDC demands.

After Independence, the country, which had very few locations for issuing passports then, expanded its presence across the country due to the growing population. However, the same pace is missing in the expansion of Mercantile Marine Department (MMD) offices in proportion to the increased number of maritime educations since 1950s. Even after steady increase in the number of maritime institutions from a single digit to over 130 in the past six decades, MMD offices in the country are just 12.

What is CDC?

A Continuous Discharge Certificate or a Seaman Record Book is a continuous record of a seaman’s service. The document certifies that the person holding is a seaman as per the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch keeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978, as amended in 1995 and recently in 2010.

Major revisions to the STCW Convention and its associated Code (Manila Amendments) entered into force on Jan. 1, 2012, with a five-year transitional period until Jan. 1, 2017.

Every seafarer must carry this document while on board, which is also an official and legal record of his sea experience. The Master of the vessel and the shipping master sign the document each time a seaman is signed off from the vessel certifying his competency and character on board. This is one of the most important documents to be in possession of a seaman is while servicing on board and while appearing for CDC.

If a seaman signs off in a foreign port than he shall get the signature of embassy staff in place of shipping manager or else he shall get shipping master’s signature on arrival in India.

The 3 offices

Under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958, the DG Shipping had set up three Shipping Masters Offices in Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai and entrusted them with the task of the issuance of CDCs.

These three Shipping Masters have territories of the Indian coastal states equally divided among them by Mercantile Marine Departments (MMD) for better management and issuance of CDCs.

CDC until 2008

Until 2008, CDCs were issued by the three Shipping Masters – in Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. However, through a DGS order in March 2008, the work of receipt of applications and issuance of all CDCs, including that of replacement, renewal and duplicate CDCs, was centralized in the Office of the Shipping Master, Government Shipping Office (GSO), Mumbai, alone.

And ironically, it was around the same time, when the number of cadets seeking sea-borne jobs (coupled with pre-sea course completed cadets) started to increase tremendously. However, the DG Shipping, instead of decentralizing the whole system to reduce time delay and to introduce more transparency, decided to force all CDC seekers to rush to its Mumbai office, which used to be overcrowded even on any lean day.

The single point process for all CDCs actually played havoc with the lives of thousands of cadets, who are forced to squirm in the verandahs of GSO, Mumbai, for their identity certificates to secure onboard jobs.

According to details available, a new CDC has to be processed and given to the applicant within 90 days and for renewal (sticker) it is just 45 days.

However, the applicants are forced to wait for more than six months to get their CDCs on both the categories and the delay in receiving their identity document badly shatters their onboard job dreams.

Expressing anguish over the inordinate delay in issuing CDC by DGS, a cadet, seeking anonymity, told Sagar Sandesh that the time has come for the DG Shipping to take the bold step and follow in the foot-steps of Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), which took the unimaginable decision of outsourcing the processing of passports – regarded as the most secured document of any country- to a private party.

Ironically, outsourcing of the process by MEA has led to introduction of more transparency in the system and the undue delay in issuing passports has also come down drastically.

“If the same system is introduced by the DG Shipping in processing CDCs, it would ultimately reduce the unwarranted time delay and keep at bay touts,” he suggested. Is CDC more classified document than passport?

Besides, outsourcing would also speed up the process and it will ultimately help seafarers, who are waiting for months to get their CDCs, he further added.

De-centralising order

In a latest order on May 8, 2013, the DG Shipping decentralized the issuance of the replacement, renewal and duplicate CDCs and tasked the offices of Shipping Master, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai to extend facilitatory services to seafarers.

The decision was taken in order to process CDC applications systematically in a streamlined manner within a minimum lead time, the Director-General of Shipping said in the circular.

According to the order, the work of receipt of application and issuance of new CDCs, of all individual category CDCs (excluding Higher National Diploma CDCs) where in the application for such CDCs have to be submitted by the seafarer himself, has been decentralized in the offices of the Shipping Masters — Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.

However, the work of receipt of application and issuance of the pre-sea training CDCs (major chunk) received from the various maritime training institutions (MTIs) would be continued to be received, processed and issued by the Shipping Master, GSO, Mumbai, only as per the said DGS 2008 directive, the latest circular said.

CDC outsourcing

While the cadets feel that outsourcing of CDC would do the much-needed streamlining of the cumbersome process followed for obtaining the document at DG Shipping, a section of senior mariners told Sagar Sandesh that there are some practical difficulties in outsourcing it.

“In passport, after the initial process and verification of documents, there is nothing much to do a follow-up. But in the case of CDCs, the Shipping Master needs to verify all the supporting documents (including passport) presented by the cadets with the respective institutions and it is really a Herculean task. Only after verification, the Shipping Master would be able to sign the CDC. So, even after outsourcing the process, it will get delayed due to the time consumed while completing the verification process.

“While issuing a fresh CDC would be an easy job under the outsourced scheme, renewal or issuing of duplicate CDCs could be more time consuming as the Shipping Masters need to accumulate and cross-verify the cadets’ onboard experiences with the respective agencies.

However, if the process of entries/endorsements into a CDC of seafarer by a Captain of a vessel is made computerized (online basis), all those entries would get reflected in DG Shipping’s Master Server also, thus enabling the Shipping Master’s Office to conclude the renewal process in the shortest possible time, one of the senior mariners asserted.

DGS option

Since the existing system of processing tend to consume more time, the DG Shipping should go in for outsourcing the processing of CDCs and implement 100 per cent computerization of records (all entries on each and every CDC) to assist the process to remain hassle-free.

If the DGS installs centralized data storage server, better E-services and connectivity with other centres to process the CDCs, it would drastically reduce the verification process and make them more efficient.

Since the DG Shipping cannot appoint more Shipping Masters, as it needs Parliament approval, he could very well opt for outsourcing the processing work of CDCs, which remains the major task.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ban on new approvals of pre-sea maritime degree courses goes

With a view to meeting the Government’s aspiration to substantially increase its seafarers to nine per cent of the world share, the Shipping Ministry has decided to lift the ban imposed on new approvals of pre-sea maritime degree courses.

Making the big announcement during the inauguration of Shipping Corporation of India’s (SCI) Maritime Training Institute (Thoothukudi campus) on Sept. 7 at V. O Chidambaranar Port, Mr. G. K .Vasan, Union Minister for Shipping, said: “The (Shipping) Ministry has decided to lift the ban imposed on new approvals of pre-sea maritime degree courses and will now allow new approvals for the three-year B.Sc Nautical Science and four-year B.E. Marine Engineering courses.”

Dwelling upon the crucial role played by seafarers in securing the country’s growth, Mr. Vasan added: “We must be proud as Indians because our seafarers have the reputation of being the most disciplined and best trained seafarers, accounting for 7 per cent of the global seafarers. Indeed, the country has positioned itself as a major supplier of the most efficient and cost effective manpower.”

The Minister stated: “Today’s seafaring field is very competitive and the seafarer needs to be highly trained to handle the state-of-art vessels. It has been our endeavour to further strengthen our global share by improving and expanding our capacity to impart quality maritime education to our future seafarers.”

Heaping praise on SCI, the Shipping Minister remarked: “When it comes to providing quality maritime education, SCI is second to none in the country.  The Maritime Training Institute (MTI), Mumbai, was set up in 1987 to meet the training requirements of SCI’s own fleet personnel as well as Indian seafaring community in general.”

“SCI’s training institute has trained about 1.5 lakh candidates including more than 2, 500 deck cadets (of which about 50 are female cadets) so far. Now, aspiring seafarers from this region will also boast of a world class maritime institute right at their doorsteps to pursue a successful seafaring career,” he pointed out.

The Minister also urged the management of SCI, VOC Port Trust and all others concerned to see that the (newly inaugurated) institute grows from strength to strength and justify the hope that has been generated with its opening.

The classes for the first batch also commenced on Sept. 7 in the existing facilities provided by V.O. Chidambaranar Port Trust and it would continue till the new campus for the Maritime Training Institute is constructed in the four hectares of land identified on the eastern side of Tuticorin Thermal Power Station Camp-II campus.

Mr.  Vasan also laid the foundation stone for the construction of a permanent training institute with class room, workshop, swimming pool, residential accommodation for cadets and faculty/staff on the port land situated at the eastern side of Camp-II quarters of TTPS, etc.

Besides others, the function was attended by Mr. S.R. Jeyadurai, MP; Mr. S. S. Rammasubbu, MP; Dr. Vishwapati Trivedi, Secretary, Ministry of Shipping; Dr. P. Vijayan, Director (Chennai Campus), Indian Maritime University (IMU); Mr. S. K. T. Ramachandran, former MP; Mr. S. Natarajan, Chairman, V.O. Chidambaranar Port Trust; trustees of V. O Chidambarnar Port Trust and Directors of Shipping Corporation of India.

Friday, September 6, 2013

RIL in fresh trouble as CAG questions Ministry on gas price hike


The Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) is in for more trouble as the Comptroller and Auditor-General has questioned the Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry over the recent gas price increase and wanted to know the steps taken to ensure that the operator (RIL-BP) delivers gas at $4.2 mbtu as per the approved production plan.

Virtually questioning the Rangarajan formula, the CAG has taken serious note of the price revision done in July and sought to know why the Ministry has not exercised its right to fix the price under Article 21.6.3 of the production sharing contract (PSC) for the KG-DWN-98/3 block.

In its August 14 communication, the Office of the Principal Director of Audit, Economic and Service Ministries has sought to know the steps the Ministry has taken to make sure that the operator complies with PSC provisions and meets the Addendum to Initial Development Plan (AIDP) targets, given that technical reports have indicated that the operator has “not fulfilled” its obligations in respect of drilling wells. 
In view of the shortfall in gas production due to non-compliance with the production sharing contract and the ADIP, has the government “ensured that the operator delivers as per the approved production profile at the price fixed of $4.2 mbtu? asks the letter. “If not, reasons thereto, along with supporting documentation. If yes, orders/action taken by the Ministry may be detailed along with supporting documents.”
The CAG has also asked the Ministry to clarify why it has not exercised its right to fix price for the KD-D6 block in view of details of the ADIP, the statement of costs, expenditure and receipts and cost recovery statements and shortfall in production. 
“As per records made available for audit with reference to requisition 30, dated July 18, 2013, regarding revision of pricing of natural gas, the Petroleum Ministry initiated a proposal for the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs to fix a new price of domestic gas as per the recommendations of the Rangarajan Committee.”
As per provision 21.6.3 of the PSC, the formula or basis for the prices to be determined shall be approved by the government before the sale of natural gas to consumers. To grant approval, the government shall take into account the prevailing policy, if any, on the pricing of natural gas… and it may delegate this function to a regulatory authority. The basis for valuation of natural gas from the KG-D6 block has been regulated by the Ministry.
“In this regard, audit observed that while approving the AIDP for the KG-D6 in December 2006, the Directorate-General of Hydrocarbons considered rates between $4 and $5 per mbtu for a production profile up to 2020 and also worked out the government take on profit petroleum on these fixed prices. However, government is aware that the natural gas production from the D1-D3 gasfields is less than that approved by the managing committee,” the letter says.
The average output during 2010 -11 was 48.13 mmscmd against the approved production of 53.40 mmscmd; during 2011-12, it came down to 35.33 mmscmd, against 61.88 mmscmd.

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