The impact of this on our economic strength has been discussed in the past also in this journal, and matters have only become worse since then, but at some stage there comes a time when this sort of an approach—that India is content being a soft state—has to stop
Yet another incident has taken place in the till now tranquil waters off Kollam/Quilon involving what appears to be a “hit and run” leading to the death of at least two, if not more, Kerala fishermen. This is on the heels of the more infamous Enrica Lexie/St Antony episode, where also some fishermen were murdered, while out in waters where their forefathers have gone fishing for generations.
Let this article place things very clearly once again, as far as the relationship between fishing vessels and other vessels is concerned—basic International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 (COLREGS), also called ROR or “Rules of the Road”, which all seafarers have to know by heart and by application before they can be so much as permitted near the door of even a simulator room, leave alone the bridge of a ship, the relevant portions in Rule 18 state in no uncertain terms that:
Responsibilities between vessels: “Except in narrow channels, traffic separation schemes, and when overtaking ... A power-driven vessel must give way to... a vessel engaged in fishing”
Now, the next point—why is it that it appears that merchant ships in and around the Indian coast are getting into tangles with fishing boats of late?
The answers are many, simple, often un-related, but together they add up to a recipe for disaster—for which we are paying the bill today:
1) There are more fishing boats venturing further out, for multiple reasons, lately. Some of them are difficult to spot till you are literally on top of them.
2) There are more merchant ships running courses closer and parallel to the coast, again for multiple reasons, lately. These include huge ones, which tower way above sea-level.
3) The VTS (Vessel Tracking System) project of the Government of India has been hanging fire for years now.
4) The quality of competency of seafarers on board ships is different, and this has been pointed out variously, in maritime forums globally. Working conditions on board most ships are so miserable now that the dedication expected in this job is difficult to find.
5) Ship-owners trying to save money often do not provide the manpower required for a look-out on the bridge in addition to the watch-keeper who is usually buried in paperwork and electronic gadgets.
5) Fatigue on board merchant ships is a global problem and cause for worry, and you will have errors and incidents, if a man is working an average 110-120 hour week on a typical merchant ship.
Some simple immediate solutions would be:
1) Simple and cheap aids for easier long-range sighting of fishing boats which are not fitted on many low-profile wooden boats, thus making them extremely difficult to spot targets on radar, need to be provided rapidly. This could be polished shiny tin drums mounted on the masts, metallic chaff/strips flying from the mast and roof, and electronic AIS equipment. In addition to usage of bright day-glow colours like orange, yellow and lime-green—and paint schemes which stand out—thick diagonal stripes are often seen on fishing boats worldwide.
2) Suo-moto implementation by the Indian shipping authorities of a rule being imposed in some other parts of the world too, imposing an obligation on merchant vessels calling Indian ports or in transit through Indian economic zone waters to provide for an additional watch-keeper onboard as well as imposing an obligation on such vessels to keep a lookout person on the bridge in addition to the watch-keeper at all times—and submission of this adherence by electronic methods in advance of such transit to the Indian authorities ashore working under the Port State Control regime.
3) Making it a punishable offence for merchant vessels in transit through Indian waters if they switch off their AIS equipment. Insisting that merchant vessels in transit Indian waters keep their funnels and name/port of registry aft lit at night. Ensure that the Indian Coast Guard does random or selective “stop and board” kind of searches as well as alcohol testing on ships arriving/departing Indian ports and in transit through India’s EEZ.
4) Ensuring stricter compliance on lights and shapes to be displayed by fishing boats, especially at night, and providing the fishing boats with these equipments. Such compliances do not cost much and if the boat-owners are not able or willing to do the needful, then there needs to be some sort of government or similar involvement in this.
Accidents at sea have been part of the perils of working on board ships and boats that venture beyond land—this comes with the territory. But this phenomenon of “hit-and-run”, this is not part of the horizon. One reason it is happening is that there is an assumption that India is a “soft state” and anybody as well as everybody can swing bye and do as they please, because they will not be caught—and if they are caught, then somebody ashore will clean things up for them with minor bribes here and there.
The impact of this on our economic strength has been discussed in the past also in this journal, and matters have only become worse since then, but at some stage there comes a time when this sort of an approach—that India is content being a soft state—has to stop. If merchant ships on tight schedules have to be told to heave to and searched as well as checked on a random or other basis while in transit in Indian waters, then so be it.
Till yesterday it was all sorts of ships drifting into our ports and harbours. Today it is fishing boats and fishermen being killed. If this is allowed to continue, next it will be the oil exploration industry, and then worse. India, and its maritime authorities, are getting a reputation abroad in shipping circles that anybody can come and do anything—and well hidden behind the corporate veils of global shipping so ably supported by our institutions in all fields, get away with murder after throwing some silver on the ground.
The message has to get across. Either that or we can take our economic superpower dreams, and place them aside while more of our second line of defence, our fishermen, fall victims to rogue ships and the people onboard. If the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard have to be given an independent dispensation to enforce discipline and adherence to laws in Indian waters, in lieu of the civil maritime administration that appears to be incapable of doing anything other than feathering their halcyonic nests, then so be it.
Our economic security is far too important to risk—and these hits on our fishing fleet are simply advance indicators of the shape of things emerging out of the oceans. These are not simple accidents anymore.
(Veeresh Malik started and sold a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing. He is also involved actively in helping small and midsize family-run businesses re-invent themselves. Mr Malik had a career in the Merchant Navy which he left in 1983, qualifications in ship-broking and chartering, a love for travel, and an active participation in print and electronic media as an alternate core competency, all these and more.)
The share sale of ONGC scraped through with largest insurer LIC coming to the rescue at the last moment. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday said that the stake sale was subscribed 98.3% yielding government Rs12,733 crore
New Delhi: With the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) disinvestment barely scraping through, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Friday said the government has decided to study the auction process before going ahead with stake sale of other companies, reports PTI.
“This (ONGC auction) is the first case. We shall have to analyse and then make assessment,” Mr Mukherjee told reporters here.
The share sale of ONGC scraped through with largest insurer Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) coming to the rescue at the last moment. Mr Mukherjee had yesterday said that the stake sale was subscribed 98.3% yielding government Rs12,733 crore.
Against an offer of 42.77 crore shares, the final demand was for 42.04 crore shares. Out of this LIC has reportedly purchased 41 crore shares.
The government has already asked Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to investigate the technical glitches that led to confusion about the subscription of ONGC share auction.
On account of the rush towards the close of the bidding process, the stock exchanges failed to upload the subscription amount leading to confusion about the total quantum of bids.
The government late night clarified that the auction has been successful and they have been able to raise the targeted amount.
With the ONGC disinvestment going through the government has raised Rs13,878 crore through stake sale in PSUs in the current fiscal. The government had set a target of mopping up Rs40,000 crore from disinvestment in the current fiscal.
The government is still toying with the idea of raising money through buyback under which the cash rich blue-chip PSUs will be asked to buy government’s stake.
“As places like China and India get wealthier, they’re going to want to buy cars like we do, and they’re going to want to fill them up like we do, and that’s going to drive up demand,” US president Barack Obama said in a speech in New Hampshire
Washington: US president Barack Obama sought to blame the burgeoning growth in India, China and Brazil for the rising oil prices in a bid to deflect the criticism of the Republicans in an election year who are attributing the surge to his failed energy policy, reports PTI.
Citing rising auto sales in these countries, he said as people in India and China get wealthier they will buy more cars and fill them up like Americans do, driving up oil prices.
Although Obama did not did not lay out a plan to deal with energy issues at home, he did call for removing subsidies to oil companies and investing more in clean alternatives.
“When you start hearing a bunch of folks saying somehow that there’s some simple solution, you can turn a nozzle and suddenly we’re going to be getting a lot more oil, that’s not just how it works.
“Over the long-term, the biggest reason oil prices will rise is because of growing demand in countries like China and India and Brazil,” Mr Obama said in a speech in New Hampshire.
Mr Obama travelled to Nashua in New Hampshire to deliver an address in energy and gas prices, which has crossed $4 per gallon here and has started pinching common man’s pocket.
Observers say the Republicans, in a presidential election year, are trying to exploit the issue in their favour to defeat Mr Obama, who is seeking re-election.
“Just think about this. In five years, the number of cars on the road in China more than tripled. Over the last five years, the number of cars tripled. Nearly 10 million cars were added in China alone in 2010—10 million cars just in one country in one year. So that’s using up a lot of oil,” he said.
“Those numbers are only going to get bigger over time. As places like China and India get wealthier, they’re going to want to buy cars like we do, and they’re going to want to fill them up like we do, and that’s going to drive up demand,” Mr Obama said.
Mr Obama, however, did not give any assurance to Americans on decrease in gasoline prices.
“While there are no short-term silver bullets when it comes to gas prices, I’ve directed my administration to look for every single area where we can make an impact and help consumers—from helping to relieve bottlenecks... to making sure speculators aren’t taking advantage of what’s going on in the oil markets.
“We are just going to keep on announcing steps in the coming weeks; every time we find something that can provide a little bit of relief right now, we’re going to do it,” Mr Obama said.
He added, however, that that he is asking the Congress to remove the subsidy on oil industry which currently amounts to $4 billion.
Mr Obama said, “I am asking Congress—eliminate this oil industry giveaway right away. I want them to vote on this in the next few weeks.
“Let’s put every single member of Congress on record: You can stand with the oil companies, or you can stand up for the American people.
“You can keep subsidising a fossil fuel that’s been getting taxpayer dollars for a century or you can place your bets on a clean-energy future.”