ISLAMABAD - The Ministry of Maritime Affairs has been taking structural measures to solve the problems of Pakistani seafarers.

Under the directions of the federal minister, a complaint mechanism is also in place to learn about their problems and to address their issues, which is not only updated daily but also get direct supervision by the minister himself.

According to the officials, in the month of August 2019, Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi held a meeting with the seafarers, including chairmen of all ports, the director general ports and shipping, the secretary Maritime Affairs and all the stakeholders to discuss the issues faced by both the fresh graduates of Pakistan Marine Academy and those who are already serving in the field.

“It was for the first time in the history that such an interaction took place where all the stakeholders participated in recommending the way forward,” said a press release issued by the ministry of maritime affairs. It further said the meeting ended with a resolve to hold such a meeting quarterly. The second meeting will be held in November 2019. “Betterment of a group of people serving an organisation is a consultative process. Short-term steps to facilitate the seafarers are being taken, but long-term steps involving prudent decisions regarding permanent solutions are being worked on which will be unveiled soon,” Ali Zaidi remarked.

Minister says long-term permanent solutions are underway

The officials said complaints regarding administrative issues at the Government Shipping Office have been addressed through pro-active oversight and strengthening its capacity. “Identification of the problems and treating them as challenges is a strategy that is being adopted which has effectively started to show results. The development of an online interface is under process to facilitate seafarers and reduce their physical interaction with the government shipping office. The application of the said step is expected to be launched in November as well,” he stated.

Funds have also been allocated to set up a dedicated and upgraded infrastructure at NADRA for issuance of machine readable SID Cards. The said problem came to light through the complaint system. The two step approach was to immediately set up a SID card facility for facilitation of our seafarers at KPT with coordination of NADRA. After this short term action, the long-term plan for permanent facilities was devised and hence the launch is underway, said the officials further.

The Ministry of Maritime Affairs is aggressively pursuing the availability of “OK to Board” facility to Pakistani seafarers for employment on foreign vessels. In addition to that, to facilitate employment of Pakistani seafarers on foreign vessels, the condition of age limit of 60 years has been discontinued.  Further, the Ministry of Interior is being requested to allow an immigration facility to seafarers joining foreign vessels without an NOC from the government shipping office. Sign-on facility is now being provided by the government shipping office 24 hours as and when requested by the licensed manning agents.  Public dealing timings have also been enhanced from 0900 hours to 1500 hours. Previously, it was till 1300 hours. To further facilitate the seafarers, the roster rules are being amended. The officials believed that the aforementioned measures will bring positive change in the working environment of the seafarers. These reforms will also serve the purpose of sustainable development and revamping of the departments. Conclusively, the betterment of our workforce is the key to a prosperous Pakistan, they concluded.