The Bangladesh Seafarers Union, a sailors-rights advocacy group, has objected to an initiative of the Shipping Ministry to train additional sailors (ratings) on an emergency basis amid rising calls from shipping companies for skilled workers.
The union demanded withdrawal of the decision of enlisting additional 40 ratings along with the regular 90 within seven days, terming the decision 'illegal'.
"According to the Bangladesh Merchant Shipping Ordinance, the selection of ratings without the opinion of the Maritime Advisory Committee is completely illegal," Seafarers Union's President Syed Mohammad Arif Hossain and its General Secretary Shahjahan Hossain said in a letter sent to the shipping ministry, the department of shipping (DoS) and the principal of the National Maritime Institute (NMI) on Sunday.
According to sources concerned, ship management activities in the country are being hampered for a long time due to an increasing sailor crisis. Many shipping companies are constantly requesting public and private maritime institutes, including Bangladesh Shipping Corporation, for skilled sailors.
Considering the situation, the shipping ministry recently approved the training of additional ratings on an emergency basis.
"Many public and private shipping companies have requested us in black and white for skilled sailors (ratings) in order to maintain uninterrupted navigation," said NMI Principal Capt Faisal Azim.
Various organisations including Bangladesh Shipping Corporation, Brow Royal Ship Management Limited, and Vanguard Maritime Limited have applied for more than 110 sailors, he added.
"We have sent their applications to the ministry. The ministry has approved the selection of 40 more ratings out of the regular 90," Capt Faisal said.
Seafarers Union President Arif Hossain said, "We have requested to withdraw their decision apprehending unemployment of sailors."
"As a member of the Maritime Advisory Committee, I can say that it is illegal to select more ratings without the opinion of the committee," he added.
However, rejecting Hossain's claim, Capt Faisal said, "We selected 40 people from the existing batch for training on the basis of merit and qualifications with the approval of the shipping ministry. Nothing illegal has happened here."
Accusing the Seafarers Union of trying to disrupt government work, the NMI principal added, "The Maritime Advisory Committee will give its opinion to the DoS or the ministry. No member of the committee can write directly to the NMI. It is a violation of established norms and attempt to disrupt government work."
"Earlier also, the union tried to deprive sailors of job opportunities. But their appeal was not heard in the High Court," he further added.