Pakistani seafarers

March 28, 2016

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WORLDWIDE persecution of Pakistani seafarer continues unabated. The apathy and indifference of the government towards this community is fast making them extinct since most foreign shipowners are unwilling to hire them.

This issue was highlighted earlier also, but no worthwhile action has so far been taken, as a result of which many maritime nations, some having cordial ties with Pakistan, have not only maintained the ‘restricted nationality’ status of Pakistani seafarers, but have so intensified regulations that many foreign shipowners, who regularly provide employment, are now having second thoughts.

Dwindling fortunes and the continued downward slide of national flag-carrier PNSC does not help much since the only other avenue for a qualified Pakistani seaman is to approach foreign-flagged shipping companies.

Some difficulties being experienced are as follows:

China is denying visas to all Pakistani seafarers who wish to sign off their vessels and proceed back home to meet their near and dear ones from any ports at the Yangtze river such as the port of Zhangjiagang. If his vessel is proceeding to Brazil, that country not only doesn’t allow visas’ but bars them from setting their foot on the shore!

This would mean that either the vessel would have to be diverted to some convenient port, entailing expenditure to the foreign shipowner, or the seafarer remains trapped on board for an unlimited time.

No European Union country allows a Pakistani seafarer to transit any of their airports en route to any destination without holding a valid Schengen visa

Obviously, with such issues no foreign shipowner would be willing to cater for Pakistani seafarers, and they would be well within their rights to look elsewhere.

It’s time our government took up this matter at all forums available or else the bread and butter of hundreds of seafarers and their families would be at stake.

Capt Asif N. Siddiqui

Karachi

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2016