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Governor calls for top priority to sailors’ safety


Mumbai : Expressing serious concern over the growing incidents of sea piracy, armed robbery and hostage-taking on the high seas, Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayanan Wednesday said that top priority must be accorded to the safety of the seafaring community.

Inaugurating the Merchant Navy Week here, Sankaranarayanan called upon the international community to intervene and “take decisive action” to end piracy and hijacking of shipping vessels for ransom.

He said failing this, the youth would opt for alternative careers and the shipping industry would be the loser.

He expressed happiness that India produces the best of seafarers in the world and accounts for 6.5 percent of the total global sailing community, serving Indian and foreign vessels with distinction.

The governor’s statement assumed significance in the wake of Tuesday’s order of the Director-General of Shipping, Lakshmi Venkatachalam, banning the movements of mechanised sailing vessels to the south and west of Salalah in southern Oman and Male in the Maldives with immediate effect.

The order came in view of the reported hijacking of at least seven vessels with around 97 sailors on them.

Coming on the eve of the Merchant Navy Week, the hijacking of seven Indian vessels — MSV Al Kadri, MSV Al Ijaz, MSV Faize-e-Osman, MSV Sea Queen, MSV NarNarayan, MSV Vishwa Kalyan and MSV Krishna Jyot — created a consternation in the Indian shipping circles.

The Merchant Navy Week is celebrated every year to create public awareness about the shipping industry that accounts for more than 90 percent of international trade by volume.

The services of seafarers, people and organisations connected with the promotion and development of national shipping are recognised during the week.

S. Hajara, chairman and managing director of the Shipping Corporation of India, pinned a miniature Merchant Navy flag on the governor’s lapel to mark the inauguration of the week.

Besides Lakshmi Venkatachalam, present on the occasion were Joint-Director of Shipping S.B. Agnihotri, Chief Surveyor Amitava Banerjee, chairman of Maritime Association of Ship Owners, Ship Managers and Agents Captain Vinay Singh, and chairman of Foreign Shipowners & Managers Association Captain Rajesh Tondon.