India’s Role and Challenges in the Global Shipping Industry

GS-3 Mains : Economy 

Revision Notes


Question : “Examine the recent steps taken by India to address safety concerns and exploitation of seafarers in the global shipping industry, and evaluate their effectiveness.”

India’s Strength:

  • Top supplier of seafarers: World’s 3rd largest with 9.35% share, aiming for 20% in next 10-20 years. (plays a crucial role in global trade)
  • Resilience and professionalism: Demonstrated during COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Opportunities due to geopolitical situations: The Ukraine-Russia conflict has opened doors for Indian maritime sector.

Major Challenges:

  • Safety Concerns:
    • Recent attacks on commercial ships (Red Sea, Strait of Hormuz) raising fear among seafarers.
    • Piracy incidents increased by 10% in last 10 months (e.g., Somali pirates targeting MV Ruen & MV Lila Norfolk in Dec 2023 & Jan 2024).
  • Exploitation of Seafarers:
    • By Iranian shipping companies with false promises.
    • Overwork, insufficient food, forced to carry illegal cargo despite hefty fees.
    • Over 200 exploitation cases reported since 2020 (lack of legal representation, unfair treatment, unawareness of rights).
    • Reports of kidnappings, assaults, illegal detentions in foreign jails/waters.

India’s Recent Steps:

  • Submitted papers to IMO’s Legal Committee:
    • Emphasized seafarer security and contract terms.
    • Advocated for a comprehensive approach to maritime security and improved contractual conditions.
    • Called for broader international cooperation to tackle maritime threats (piracy, extremism, etc.).
    • Highlighted the impact of unlawful recruitment practices on seafarers and international trade.
    • Urged for international coordination to address issues and ensure seafarers’ rights under Maritime Labour Convention (2006).
  • Launched ‘Human Rights at Sea’ initiative (with National Human Rights Commission).

Suggestions and Way Ahead:

  • Improved rights and protection for Indian seafarers despite the risks.
  • Comprehensive land-based solution to address piracy.
  • Addressing crucial issues: Seafarer security, contract terms, broader maritime security challenges.
  • Urgent need for government support and enhanced protection measures.
  • Enhanced international cooperation to safeguard seafarers and ensure uninterrupted navigation.


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