NEW DELHI: The 300,000 Indians who make up 10% of the world’s seafaring community, have been hit extremely hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Captain Sanjay Parashar, Chairman of the International Maritime Foundation says nearly 60,000 crew on 200 cruise ships lost their jobs virtually overnight. In conversation with StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P.Revi he pointed to the uncertainty facing 2.4 lakh Indian sailors on merchant vessels (even those on leave) as global lockdowns and grounded flights means they remain where they are. Two Indians are reported dead of the coronavirus, one in Miami in the US, and while the body of the other is currently on a ship travelling from the U.S. to Europe.
The pandemic has also hit India’s ports in terms of cargo being loaded and offloaded, which affects the livelihoods of 200,000 + stevedores and supporting unorganised workers. There was also the case of 150 out-of-contract stranded sailors in Iran, who have been abandoned by ship owners and agents and can’t be flown home because of travel restrictions. Having been involved in 95 similar cases and supervised the rescue of 600 sailors in the past, he says, “Captain Sushma Swaraj the Anchor is being missed dearly during the coronavirus outbreak.”
Captain Prasher joined the merchant navy in 1990 and is currently Chairman of International Maritime Federation (IMF), and Vice President of the Forum for Integrated National Security, a think tank which also looks at the security and human rights of seafarers.