• Syed Ali Haider Zaid Saturday said the Ministry was taking practical measures to resolve the issues of seafarers.
  • The meeting ended with a resolve to hold such a meeting quarterly.
  • The second meeting will be held in November 2019.

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Haider Zaidi Saturday said the Ministry was taking practical measures to resolve the issues of seafarers, enabling them major contributor to the country's economy.

“It is the top priority of the present government to address the sailor's grievances at earliest, as this sector has a huge potential and can compete both regional and global players," the Minister said in a statement issued here by the Maritime Ministry.

The Ministry, he said had established a complaint cell in that regard that was being updated daily to learn about the seafarers issues and to address them in effective way. Seafarers around the globe were sending valuable foreign exchange in the form of remittances, the Minister said while citing the example of Philippines that provided 20 percent of the seafarers in the global market and contribute around $5.5 billion to their economy annually.

“We have to empower our youth for converting the youth bulge into demographic dividend that was being neglected by inadequate policy measures of the past governments," he remarked. To reduce the physical interaction of sailors with government shipping office, Zaidi said an online interface is under process that would expect to be launched in November this year.

He said funds have also been allocated to set up a dedicated and upgraded infrastructure at NADRA for issuance of machine readable SID Cards. The Ministry was aggressively pursuing the availability of “OK to Board" facility to Pakistani seafarers for employment on Foreign Vessels, adding that age limit of 60 for employment on foreign vessels has also been discontinued.

The Ministry of Interior is being requested to allow an immigration facility to seafarers joining foreign vessels without No objection certificate (NOC) from the govt shipping office. Zaidi said sign-on facility is now being provided by government shipping office 24 hours as and when requested by the licensed manning agents.

The Minister said roster rules are being amended while the public dealing timings have also been enhanced from 0900 hours to 1500 hours (previously, it was till 1300 hours).

These measures he said would not only bring positive changes in the working environment but would also serve the purpose of sustainable development and revamping of the departments.

Earlier this August the Minister held a meeting with the seafarers including Chairmen of all ports, Director General Ports and Shipping, Secretary, Maritime Affairs and all the stakeholders to discuss the issues faced by both the fresh graduates of Pakistan Marine Academy and those who are already serving in the field.

It was for the first time in the history that such an interaction took place where all the stakeholders participated in recommending the way forward.

The meeting ended with a resolve to hold such a meeting quarterly.

The second meeting will be held in November 2019.