If you are wondering why more Indians are landing in captivity in the Gulf of Aden, here’s the possible answer: there’s a strong presence of Indian workforce in merchant navy, driven by high demand and big money as salaries and perks.
India is the 20th largest maritime country and its workforce is in huge demand across the world. Currently, 27,000 officers and 55,000 ratings — responsible for cleaning, sweeping, loading, unloading of cargo, engine servicing and catering — are employed on Indian and foreign flag vessels.
“The ever-increasing demand of Indian seafarers is a testament of the quality of education and training received in India,” Shipping Minister TR Baalu had told Lok Sabha on October 21.
Babu Joseph, executive director of Euro Tech Maritime Academy, Kochi, said one of the reasons for the growing demand is that people from the 30-nation Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) group were leaving this sector. “The youth in these countries are shifting to shore-based jobs,” he said. “The other factors being the high safety record of Indians at sea and their superior documentation skills.”
More young Indians, merchant navy is lucrative and gives them an opportunity to travel. “Salary is the main motivating factor,” said Mohammad Zia of Allahabad. “I got a stipend of $155 per month when I joined as a deck cadet with Shipping Corporation of Saudi Arabia in 1992. It was a huge amount then for someone who had just completed 10+2."
His friend, a doctor, left his job in a Mumbai hospital and joined a ship. “He is now getting around Rs 2 lakh per month," added Zia.