[25th April 2024] The Hindu Op-ed: Restoring earth’s right to ‘good health’The Indian seafarer deserves better in choppy high seas

PYQ Relevance:

Q) What are the maritime security challenges in India? Discuss the organisational, technical and procedural initiatives taken to improve maritime security. (UPSC IAS/2022)


Q) Which of the following have coral reefs?

(1). Andaman and Nicobar Islands
(2). Gulf of Kachchh
(3). Gulf of Mannar
(4). SunderbansSelect the correct answer using the code given below.

a) 1, 2 and 3 only
b) 2 and 4 only
c) 1 and 3 only
d) 1, 2, 3 and 4


Prelims: ‘Human Rights at Sea’ Initiative by India;

Mains: The vulnerabilities of Indian seafarers;

Mentor comments: India submitted three papers to the 111th Session of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Legal Committee (LEG), which is from April 22 to 26, 2024. These submissions address crucial issues such as seafarers’ security, contract terms, and broader maritime security challenges. India has stressed the need for a comprehensive approach to maritime security and advocated improved contractual conditions for seafarers. While acknowledging the IMO’s efforts to combat maritime fraud, India has called for broader international cooperation to tackle various maritime threats, including piracy, armed robbery, extremist attacks, regional conflicts, and emerging risks such as drone attacks and the use of maritime weapons.

Let’s learn. 

Why in the News?

Amid rising safety concerns among Indian seafarers following the recent attacks on commercial ships in sensitive geographical areas such as the Red Sea and the Strait of Hormuz.

Who is Seafarers? 

  • Seafarer as literally being someone who is employed to serve aboard any type of marine vessel.

Key facts about the Indian seafares:

  • With around 2,50,000 Indian seafarers serving on specialised cargo vessels worldwide
  • India, with 9.35% of global seafarers and ranking third globally

The vulnerabilities of Indian seafarers:

  • Lack of Legal Representation: A majority of Indian seafarers lack legal representation, leaving them vulnerable in legal disputes or incidents at sea.
  • Feeling of Unfair Treatment: Many Indian seafarers feel unfairly treated, indicating potential issues with employment conditions, treatment by employers, or legal protection.
  • Unawareness of Rights: The survey reveals that a significant portion of Indian seafarers are unaware of their rights.
  • Increasing kidnappings in the Gulf of Guinea: The Maritime Union of India highlighted a 40% increase in kidnappings in the Gulf of Guinea, with 134 cases of assault, injury, and threats reported. Incidents such as the kidnapping of 20 Indian nationals from the MT Duke (off the western coast of Africa) and the ship owners paying hefty ransoms highlight the dangers faced by seafarers.
  • Impact of Recent Incidents: Recent events such as the seizure of MSC Aries and detention of MT Heroic Idun at Nigeria highlight the immediate threats and challenges faced by Indian seafarers, amplifying their vulnerabilities.
  • Exploitation Concerns: Reports suggest that Iranian shipping companies, in collaboration with international recruiters, exploit Indian seafarers by luring them with false promises of high salaries and opportunities in the Middle East. 

‘Human Rights at Sea’ Initiative by India: 

  • The Indian government and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) launched the ‘human rights at sea’ initiative to address abuses against Indian seafarers, including cases of illegal detentions and stranded seafarers in foreign waters.

Measures to resolve these challenges 

  •  Accountability Mechanisms for Ship Owners: Strengthening mechanisms to hold ship owners accountable for violations against Indian seafarers, particularly those operating under foreign registrations to evade taxes, through proactive cooperation among stakeholders and regulatory bodies.
  • Call for International Cooperation: India emphasizes the need for enhanced international cooperation to safeguard seafarers’ rights and security, indicating that the issue extends beyond national borders and requires collective action
  • Combatting Exploitation by Shipping Companies: Regulatory measures to combat exploitation by shipping companies, particularly those collaborating with international recruiters to lure Indian seafarers with false promises, such as strict enforcement of labor laws, increased oversight of recruitment practices, and penalties for companies found guilty of exploitation.
  • Support and Recognition for Seafarers: Providing support and recognition for Indian seafarers’ resilience and professionalism, particularly in times of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic and heightened security concerns due to recent attacks on commercial ships.
  • Government Support: Enhanced government support for Indian seafarers, including measures to address security concerns, provision of resources for training and education, and advocacy for their rights at international forums such as the IMO.


Implementation of comprehensive piracy prevention measures, including enhanced surveillance, collaboration with international maritime security forces, and possibly exploring the deployment of private guards on merchant navy ships.

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