Harsh penalties for Indian seafarers ‘jumping ship’ in the US

A security guard patrols shipping containers at the port of Miami. Credit: Richard Patterson/Getty Images

Subhash Barguzar, India’s director-general of shipping, plans to act against Indian seafarers who ‘jump ship’ to try to illegally enter countries while halted in international ports.

A circular released on 1 August said, “This is a criminal act and due to this unscrupulous behaviour of a small number of seafarers, the job prospects for Indian seafarers on cruise ships are being adversely affected.”

The announcement follows complaints that a high number of Indian seafarers aboard US-bound cruise ships were abandoning vessels to try to illegally enter the country.

Seafarers caught attempting to do so will have their passports cancelled, their access to the e-migrant system rejected, and their seafarer continuous discharge certificate (CDC) will be cancelled within 24 hours of a complaint from an employer or registered recruitment and placement company. The cancellations of CDCs and passports will be handled through India’s Ministry of External Affairs.

The issue concerns seafarers working in the hospitality services sector aboard cruise ships heading to the US.

Barguzar noted that there have been a few hundred claims of this nature from manning agents in the maritime sector. He presumes that their main motive would be to find a new job and remain in that country. “The US is a big country, a big economy. Prospects are good there, so they find it a good place to live in. You know there is a great rush for US visas,” Barguzar said.

Although the director-general of shipping does not have information regarding the whereabouts of these seafarers after they jump ship, he intends to report the cases to local police authorities.

The Indian director-general of shipping has been contacted for further comment by Safety at Sea.