Passenger cap for tugs could delay crew change at port’s outer anchorage

Tugs, that are used to support crew change at the outer anchorage of Indian ports, will be allowed to carry a maximum of 20 passengers to ensure safety of the personnel and the tugs due to the onset of monsoon, said the Directorate General of Shipping (DG Shipping).

While recognising the necessity of crew change on ships manned by Indian seafarers and allow them to be repatriated, it is equally important to ensure the safety of the personnel and the tugs involved in such operations, the country’s maritime administration said in a June 12 order.

A host of personnel such as agent’s representatives, on-signers, off-signers and other port officials are involved in these crew change activities at anchorages and would require to be transported by tugs thereby exposing their crew to potential safety and health threats.

The extra precautions would further stretch the time taken for carrying out crew change at the outer anchorage of Cochin Port, which has emerged the top destination for ship owners and managers for this exercise.

Ship managers and crewing agents have voiced concerns over the shortage of tugs at Cochin, which they said had more than doubled the time for crew rotation activity, from the earlier 8 hours to about 18 hours as the number of ships looking to rotate crew at the outer anchorage soared.

Hence, a tug is being used to carry out crew change on two ships simultaneously– drop the on-signers and pick-up the off-signers – anchored far away from each other, prolonging the overall time.

Ships coming for crew change are anchored 10-12 miles from the shore. The crew change activity includes tug travel time both ways carrying crew, boarding or disembarking of seafarers and their luggage.

While agreeing with the D G Shipping’s move to put a 20 person cap for tugs carrying passengers from a safety perspective, a ship management executive said: “The problem is crew changes at the outer anchorage of Cochin Port will be affected because the number of tugs are less. The Cochin Port Trust must lease more tugs for facilitating crew changes or must allow private players to provide this service. Competition will reduce the cost and improve the quality of service”.

Cochin Port said it has no plans to hire more tugs. The port has two owned tugs while another three have been hired for five years from Ocean Sparkle Ltd.

“Crew change is not the job of the port,” said an official. “Tugs are actually for port/cargo operations. The number of tugs we have are sufficient for normal port operations and after that only we are sparing them for crew change. These tugs are not designed for crew change, these are harbour tugs for assisting ships to enter and exit the port and not for carrying personnel,” he said.

Ship managers also said that ships have to wait until the off signers are cleared by the Immigration Department on shore, before it can sail off, extending the waiting time for the vessel.
Source: The Hindu Business Line

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