The Centre has tightened recruitment rules for sailors to prevent agents from cheating them and avert their exploitation by ship owners, officials said.
Only agents registered with the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) can employ sailors. But the new rule makes it mandatory for employers to hire Indian sailors for service on foreign ships also through the eMigrate recruitment portal (www.emigrate.gov.in) of the ministry of external affairs (MEA).
Officials have linked the eMigrate and DGS portals in a system that forwards data from these portals to the ministry’s Bureau of Immigration. Immigration officials will be able to stop sailors from leaving India if their employers have not recruited them through the system.
Though shipping companies directly recruit captains and chief engineers, they will have to register details of these appointments too on the eMigrate portal, making employers more accountable.
Shipping companies in the UAE left 97 Indians stranded on at least 22 ships, working in poor conditions and with little hope of their employers ever settling outstanding wages, till the Indian consulate in Dubai recently took steps to repatriate 70 of these sailors.
The ministry plans to run the system on a pilot basis for three months, starting from September 1.
The DGS issued a notification in which it said many Indian seafarers continue to seek jobs through unregistered entities despite the directorate cautioning sailors against this. The DGS had, in consultation with the MEA, decided to use the eMigrate software to process the recruitment of sailors, the notification said.
The DGS said officials would prevent seafarers recruited directly by foreign ship owners from passing through immigration checkpoints.
Indian diplomats in the UAE and other parts of the Gulf welcomed the move, saying it would help curb exploitation of sailors from the country.
The MEA initially established the eMigrate portal for blue-collar workers and housemaids seeking employment in 18 countries that require emigration clearance from the office of the Protector of Emigrants.