NO: DELENG / 2017 / 70663
official media partner of national maritime foundation
One-on- One with Dr. Malini V Shankar ( IAS ), the DG Shipping
By Sea and Coast | 20/08/2018

With this month’s Issue Sea and Coast has come up with special story: An exclusive interview with Malini V Shankar, the DG Shipping, Union Ministry of Shipping, Govt. of India that unfolds the incredible journey taken up by a Scientist, an administrator and an enabler, behind the shipping scenes.

Ques. Sea and Coast asked Malini V Shankar, DG Shipping about her journey climbing up the ladder, especially a kind of ladder that is not uniquely smooth across the gender spectrum. Being a woman achieving her success probably hasn’t always been a cake-walk, shipping being a predominant male industry. We were curious to know all about the journey excelling and setting a benchmark.

To which the DG Shipping replied, “I believe that the likes and dislikes of a domain is gender neutral. I believe in doing my best in the responsibilities assigned to me. As a trained scientist, it is possible that I have a natural flair for technical fields. Having said that, my objectives in any field, as an administrator, is to ensure that there are systems in place, and that these systems work for the betterment of the people. I have been fortunate to have assignments in domains of my liking.”

Ques. Our second question was about the emphasis on developing shipping industry that is in focus nowadays. Our Prime Minister and the Union Ministry for Shipping are utilizing every inch of our coastal cover. Can you throw some light on where we are in terms of development (specific to shipping)?

“Globally, there is a redoubled interest in Blue Economy,” said Malini V Shankar, DG Shipping, adding, “The Government of India and more particularly the Hon. Minister of Shipping has been the driving force in bringing the attention back to the hitherto neglected area of water transport. There is huge potential in coastal and inland water transport both for cargo and tourism. The Sagarmala project is taking off, Indian cruise ships have been launched on the west coast, and so has the cargo transport along the National Waterways 1 (Ganges). These initiatives will bear tremendous results in the near future.”

Ques. Third one in the list was about the cases of fraud agents who trick young graduates promising them an employment in the maritime industry. We asked about what efforts can be taken in curbing these activities?

DG Shipping replied, “The STCW Convention 1978, as amended requires the Party to ensure that the training and assessment of seafarers are administered, supervised and monitored. We have no direct control over maritime training institutes which are not approved by the Directorate and which might be conducting maritime courses for other Flags. However, the liberalization of procedures for issuance of CDC is expected to prevent many seafarers from going to non- DGS approved maritime training institutes.”

Ques. Seafaring has always been a male dominated industry and fewer women join the industry, even companies are also not keen on hiring women. We asked about whether there is any initiative to support women in the field to encourage them?

To which DG Shipping responded, “You may be aware that the IWSF (International Women Seafarers Foundation) has been established very recently by 3 pioneering women seafarers of India. It is remarkable this is the first country to have such an association! The Directorate is happy to support this initiative, and we hope that together we can make a difference in finding opportunities for the women. On the official side, we have proposed an amendment in the Recruitment Rules for certain posts which will enable women seafarers to take up a career in government and further their cause.”

Ques. Our next question was about the many women candidates who have already completed their training and waiting for their turn to go onboard. We wanted to understand the reason behind this delay.

Answering the question, DG Shipping said, “Any change in society is generally met with reservations. The mindset of HR divisions of companies also needs to change. This is bound to happen, but not overnight.”

Ques. We asked, “Why government of India is not cutting down the intake of trainees to curb the market surplus at present?”

“I think your question is why the number of seats in MTIs is not being reduced. In a liberalized economy, there is no place for quotas. The market will correct itself. At the moment, the supply exceeds the demand, leading to difficulties in finding a permanent employment. Once the global economy picks up - and there are signs of it, the demand for trained seafarers will pick up. If the supply is curtailed now, the Indians are likely to lose jobs if there are not enough trained Indian seafarers,” replied DG Shipping.

Ques. Our next question was about the dry docking and ship repairing industry which is yet to take shape in India. We asked why.

Dr. Malini V Shankar replied to this, “The Government is in the process of finalizing the policy regulations for ship repair industry. Investment in dry docking is dependent on the quantum of estimated business. The high cost of operations in India, juxtaposed against the cost efficiencies and low turnover time in China could be a reason for lag in investment in India.”

Ques. We also asked about the benchmark set by IMO for the low Sulphur fuel to be achieved by 2020. But according to the complaints registered some of the ships are not maintaining the required benchmark. We asked, how prepared were the Indian shipping companies to adhere to the levels set by IMO?

Dr. Malini V Shankar responded to this, “The Indian ship owners are highly conversant with the development in shipping regulations and are fully compliant with them. I am confident that they are well prepared to meet the fuel standard requirements.”

Ques. We than asked whether we are in need of foreign technicians to make effective use of technology and going green with fuel consumption and other aspects?

The DG Shipping answered, “For any sector, it is optimal to combine existing expertise available within India with the cutting edge technological developments available overseas. Shipping is not an exception to this.”

Ques. Our next question was: “Is there a facility to get a Visa waiver for seafarers or to improvise visa on arrival in other countries?”

To which she replied, “The representatives of seafarers, the unions, and the Directorate have been successful in taking up the issue with the Ministry of Finance in this regard.”

Ques. We asked, “Differentiating professionals and smugglers become difficult. So do we have a facility or can we expect one Seamen Identity card similar to adhar card?”

The answer was, “The Seaman Identity Card will offer a firm identity for the genuine seafarers. The implementation of integrated e-governance across sectors and data analytics capabilities will enable identifying the intruders!”

Ques. E- migrate system at the airport for seamen has to be improved and streamlined. We asked about how to overcome this issue?

“The implementation of e-migrate system is a manifestation of the commitment of the Government to facilitate migration for genuine seafarers while at the same time promptly identifying those that should not be allowed to migrate as seafarers. The system has worked well, and we are committed to constant improvement of the system in order to reduce the errors,” replied DG Shipping.

Ques. We asked about Seafarer’s VISA, if there is any facility for getting a Visa waiver for seafarers or if there is a way to improvise visa on arrival in other countries. Was there any fast-track process in place in the embassies for the visa processing of Seamen?

Her reply was, “The Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs has been working on this aspect.”

Ques. We wanted to know about Government’s considerations for reducing income tax for seafarers?

A. She replied, “The representatives of seafarers, the unions, and the Directorate have been successful in taking up the issue with the Ministry of Finance in this regard.”

Ques. We then asked about the possibility of reducing the contract period for officers and crew?

DG Shipping answered to this saying, “This is for the companies and the crew to negotiate, and any such development will be in alignment with global practices.”

Ques. We were wondering, if it was mandatory and legally abiding for any shipping company to offer Family Insurance for each and every crew members appointed, every seafarer.

Her answer was, “The Agreement has to be in compliance with the general requirements of the IMO.”

Ques. We knew that the Indian CDC is now open for everyone. Everyone with just a High school degree is eligible, can undergo STCW 2010 and is medically fit will be able to apply online. The very same process of application is in place in case of CDC’s for the GP Rating course which spans six Month. We wanted to know if it there is any difference in both CDC’s. If there isn’t any difference then what exactly is the advantage of GP Rating course, keeping in mind that young and eligible candidates are investing more than rupees 2 Lacs for their pre-sea Training?

Dr. Malini V Shankar replied, “The government has simplified the requirements for obtaining the CDC, which is now being given after completion of the 5 basic courses. This is in line with the STCW stipulations of the IMO. With the introduction of this reform, Indian seafarers who used to go to other countries for obtaining a CDC in a short time can obtain the same within the country. However, the companies that recruit seafarers might prefer candidates who have a higher level of training for certain posts. While the basic CDC enables the candidate to apply for the entry level jobs, the GP rating course will empower the seafarer to qualify for higher level positions.”

Ques. Our next one line was about the revolutionary changes that are fairly noticeable more recently in the quality and standard of all of the Training Institutes for Sea farers. We wanted to know— who is the key person behind so many of the new policies in place with regards to the training spaces. We asked her whom she would want to give the credit to, we wanted to know if the person was she, if she is personally looking into this?

Her humble reply to this was, “I have always been interested in training and capacity building of both institutions and individuals. The future of any country lies in the enhancing the knowledge, skills and attitudes of the students and professionals. As I mentioned earlier, I focused on the training aspects as I found that it called for a great deal of streamlining and monitoring. The DDG in charge of Training, Mr. Ashish Wankhede, has been a superb collaborator in this aspect. I also believe that a huge majority of the training institutes are happy with the measures taken by us.”

Ques. We were nearing the end of the conversation when we asked the reason behind the delay to have refresher courses in PSSR. We wanted to know why there is any course for PSSR (Personal Safety and Social Responsibility) and EFA (Elementary First Aid) in place now?

She answered, “Refresher courses for PSSR and EFA are not mandatory as per STCW Convention.”

Ques. We were waiting to ask this last one. We knew, Malini V Shanker, DG Shipping was the person who revolutionized the entire shipping industry in a very short span of time. We wanted to know all about her vision. We wanted to know how she sees India to be the next marine hub in near future?   

And her humble response to this question did surpass our expectation. She said, “One step at a time. Take up a few projects; each one will take its own trajectory. My priority was to focus on the quality of training institutes so that our seafarers become the preferred choice of international recruiters. As far as a marine hub is concerned, the Ministry has already taken several steps - infrastructure development, promotion of cruise tourism, coastal trade, and of inland water transport, to name a few. As for me, I would like to see maritime clusters (of industries) to be established in India. With this in mind, I am facilitating meetings of the complementary industries - ship building, ship repairs, manufacturers of parts and spare parts - in Goa. I am hopeful that this will meet with success.”

Ques. We then asked about the secrets of her perfect balance between personal and professional life. Being a woman, it’s even tougher?

Her reply was, “With the increase in the number of women professionals, the family - especially the menfolk - has become supportive of the women. For a successful professional, there is no substitute for family support and a passion for the profession.”

Ques. We wanted to take a long shot. We asked, when do we get to see her in the role of the next IMO Secretary?

She didn’t give us a timeline, only said, “That would be nice, if it is to happen!”

Our chat session about the hooks and crooks of the ships ended in a cheerful ending note, in her own words, “Think ahead of the others. Competition brings out the best in us.”